Thoughtful Thursday: What’s the best book you read last month?

fantasy and science fiction book reviews

It’s the first Thursday of the month, which means it’s time to report!

What is the best book you read in September 2013 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 will choose a book from our stacks.

We’ve got a few giveaways still current, including some signed books. Find those here! 

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  1. I did read something in September that bowled me over! Annoyingly, I can’t link to it (yet) because it’s something I beta-read for a friend, a medieval mystery set about twenty miles (and seven hundred years) from where I live. It will be available as epub from my website when she pronounces it done, though. (In Dutch. I might even have a go at translating it when I have some of that rare commodity called “time”.)

  2. I could kick my selfe for waiting so long–the best book I read in September was Feed by Mira Grant. This writer, in all her iterations, never disappoints.

  3. sandyg265 /

    I read Heart of Venom by Jennifer Estep. It was my one highlight in a month of mediocre books.

  4. I had a wonderful time reading “Do we not bleed?” by Patricia Finney (who also writes as P. F. Chisholm). (There’s a hint in the title, in case you’re wondering. More than one, actually. In that, it has similarities with Shakespeare in Love.)

    The author has picked up on a couple of characters from her Robert Carey series of historical novels in this first “James Enys mystery”. The lead character (barrister James Enys, who is not quite what he seems) is partnered with “Bald Will”, a poet, playwright, and dodgy spy. The two of them try to solve a series of gruesome “Jack the Ripper”-type murders.

    Late 16th century London is brought vividly and scarily to life; scary because of the wealth of superstition, the plague, and the uncontrolled government torturers, all of which are liable to seriously damage a person’s health.

    Extremely well researched and a real page-turner. I read it in a single sitting and then went back and re-read all five Chisholm novels as well. Definitely recommended.

  5. Melanie Goldmund /

    The best thing I read in September, by a mile or more, was Wool, by Hugh Howey. Excellent world-building, deep characters that I could identify with and root for, suspense … I can’t wait to get my hands on the next books in the series!

    My best re-read was probably Katya’s World, by Jonathan L. Howard. I’m also looking forward to the next book in this Young Adult series.

    • April V. /

      I’ve been meaning to read Katya’s World for some time now but my list is so gargantuan that I haven’t gotten to it yet. I’ll have to move it up a few notches now.

  6. sandy ferber /

    Only got to read a single book last month, but it was a goodie: Robert Heinlein’s “Glory Road.” Here is what I had to say about it: So what does an author do, after writing one of the most beloved science fiction novels of all time and in the process picking up his third out of an eventual four Hugo awards? That was precisely the conundrum that future sci-fi Grand Master Robert Heinlein faced in 1962, after winning the award for “Stranger in a Strange Land,” and he responded to the problem by switching gears a bit. His follow-up novel, “Glory Road,” was not precisely Heinlein’s first fantasy piece–his 1959 novella “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” had contained a large dollop of very strange fantasy mixed in with its central mystery–but, as far as I can tell, it was his earliest full-length creation in the fantasy vein; one that was itself nominated for a Hugo award, ultimately losing to Clifford D. Simak’s charming “Way Station.” Initially appearing as a serial in the July – September 1963 issues of “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction” (which itself copped a Hugo for best magazine in 1963), it was released in hardcover later that year. A lighthearted blend of hard fantasy (the book features 20 different universes, fire-breathing dragons, assorted monsters, giant rats and boars, the use of magic and spells and so on) and rational science (much of the fantastic elements are given pseudoplausible explanations), the book is a pleasing creation that most readers deem a sort of dividing line in the author’s work. After this novel, and beginning with 1964’s “Farnham’s Freehold,” Heinlein’s right-wing libertarian voice began to obtrude ever more shrilly, in a tone that most people seemingly cannot describe without using the word “hectoring.” “Glory Road” does find its author grumbling about the state of the world, in what British sci-fi critic David Pringle has called a “grouchy but amusing auctorial tone,” but more restrainedly than later on, and lightened with a good deal of mordant humor.

    The novel is told in the first person by a virile young man in his early 20s with the decidedly unmacho handle of Evelyn Cyril Gordon (he understandably prefers the nicknames E.C. and Easy). After being struck in the face with a bolo during the early phases of what the reader presumes to be the Vietnam War, Gordon is discharged and decides to spend some time in Europe before returning to college in the States. On a nudist beach on the Ile du Levant (that’s by the French Riviera), he espies a beautiful, naked blonde woman, whom he speaks to briefly. The next day, in Nice, Gordon responds to an ad in “The Herald Tribune” looking for “a brave man…indomitably courageous,” for “very high pay, glorious adventure, great danger.” He is surprised to learn that the ad had been placed by that very same blonde Amazon, whose name is Star, as it turns out. And before Gordon can even think twice, he and Star’s assistant, the diminutive but able-bodied Rufo, are being whisked along with the sorceress to another world, in another universe, as they begin their valiant quest on the “glory road”….

    Surprisingly, the actual quest that Gordon engages in is of secondary concern as the tale proceeds. Yes, Gordon must fight the Igli monster and the Horned Ghosts and those dragons and a master swordsman (Heinlein, who had been an accomplished fencer at Annapolis, describes this sword fight brilliantly) and an entity known as the Soul Eater en route to the attainment of his goal–and wisely, we are kept in the dark as the tale proceeds as to just what that goal is (I’ll only say that it involves something called the Egg of the Phoenix), ratcheting up curiosity and suspense. But the book’s initial section, in which Gordon gives us the mundane details of his history, and the book’s entire final third, after the quest is finished and Gordon ponders the fate of the retired hero beside his lady love, might be even more compelling. Along the way, the young man takes the time to rail against modern Earth society as compared to some of the idyllic worlds that he visits. Heinlein, thus, is able to take some digs at the military, the selective service, the economy, taxes, sexual mores, prostitution, nudity, marriage (the book is probably not a good recommendation for the prudish, as the author does not seem to be overly fond of the concept of monogamy), alimony, cocktail parties, street traffic, and on and on. As previously mentioned, though, he leavens this grousing with a good deal of humor, bantering conversations and saucy badinage (I love it when he uses the word “fiddlewinking” instead of, uh, another F word), and the results are quite winning. How amusing it is when Heinlein reveals that he thinks the Irish are the most logical people, and when he tells us the sources of the incubus legend and the “Eye of newt and toe of frog…” recipe in “Macbeth.” (There’s also the occasional groaner, such as when Gordon puns “Just don’t make a hobbit of it.”) And speaking of “Macbeth,” Heinlein’s novel is filled with literary references, from Tennyson and Longfellow quotes to passing comments on Conan the Barbarian, L. Frank Baum, H. Rider Haggard’s Umbopa, Sherlock Holmes, and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom. Despite the fact that he tells us that books put him to sleep, Gordon seems to have consumed an awful lot of fantasy literature for such a young athlete (a possible boo-boo on the author’s part). Still, the book is enormously entertaining, a genuine lark, with big laughs to be had amidst the numerous action set pieces. The three central characters are extremely likable, and it is fascinating to discover just who Star is, as we learn about her detailed background. Without giving away too much, let me just say that the woman, gorgeous and athletic blonde that she is, has yet absorbed the knowledge of over 190 deceased men…including, thus, the in-depth knowledge of what men like and desire sexually. Now that’s what I call a REAL fantasy!

  7. Sir Read-a-Lot /

    The best books I read in September were Cold Magic by Kate Elliot and Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.

    I found Cold Magic when it was reviewed here, and it was well worth the review it got.

    Steelheart is a fantastic twist on the superhero genre.

  8. Misti /

    Blackout by Mira Grant. I devoured that whole series and loved it.

  9. April /

    The only really good books I read in September were audiobooks:
    The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson is an excellent YA steampunk/alternate history fantasy with very interesting magic.

    And the latest two in my journey through the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold which were Diplomatic Immunity and A Civil Campaign. Both excellent in their own way. If you haven’t read this series and you enjoy clever, sarcastic heroes you should definitely look into it.

  10. RedEyedGhost /

    The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham. The first two books were a bit difficult to get through for me (mainly because of the lack of dialogue), but this final volume really impressed me.

  11. Andreas /

    The best story I read in September was S.P. Somtow’s World Fantasy Award-winning “The Bird Catcher.” In it, a man living in New York remembers his journey from an internment camp during WWII to a fishing village in the Gulf of Siam, where he grew up and became the bogeyman’s friend. The story has been collected in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Fifteenth Annual Collection (2002), edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, The Museum of Horrors, edited by Dennis Etchison, and more recently in The Apex Book of World, edited by Lavie Tidhar.

  12. I read Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. Oh my goodness, it is amazing. You think its going to be another stereotypical young man- training-to-be-a-magnificent-warrior book, but you’d be wrong. The character pull you in and tell you a story that you will not soon forget. Very highly recommended

  13. Sandy Ferber, 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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