It’s the first Thursday of the month. You know what that means, ’cause we do this on the first Thursday of every month! Time to report!
What is the best book you read in December 2017 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. And we’ve also got a constantly updating list of new and forthcoming releases.)
As always, one commenter will choose a book from our stacks.
The best book was The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge. The titular MacGuffin is a plant that is purported to grant hallucinatory glimpses of a higher reality–if the plant is fed lies–at a time when everyone’s set notions of reality (Bible-based) are being challenged by Darwin’s writings and archeological findings. The protagonist is the daughter of a minister in mid-19th century England, and her father is creating fake fossils to support the Bible’s creation narrative, as part of a scheme to feed the hallucinogenic plant the lies it needs to grow. There are many harsh comments on the very tenuous social position of women in the middling stratum of society that the heroine lives in, as well as allusions to the even more tenuous prospects of women in lower strata. Less fantastic than the other books I’ve read by Hardinge, but just as well written.
Two books I read that were more “literary” but less well written were The Chimes by Anna Small and Depth-Charging Ice Planet Goth by Andrez Bergen. The Chimes had what seemed like a very implausible but fascinating world where writing was abolished, memories faded extremely quickly, and music and singing were used to communicate all knowledge. Like many literary novels, there were stretches of truly beautiful writing, but the story didn’t hang together well…especially when it finally turned into a very low-key romance plus “overthrow the evil order”/”destroy the big bad weapon” tale (wasn’t there a movie with that plot a while back?). The Bergen book had an abused, psychologically terrorized heroine with the usual unreliable narrator qualities plus an imaginary friend (?) and flashbacks to an interplanetary war, but it too devolved into a more conventional murder plot and ended depressingly.
Also read two Patricia Elliotts, The Ice Boy and The Night Walker, good but not great YAs. And The Cobbler of Ridingham, next to last in the Western Lights series (so far)…definitely an acquired taste, but a “comfort food” type read if you enjoy reading about mid-18th century English society transposed to the Pacific Northwest with mastodons and saber-toothed tigers.
I had a lot of really excellent reads in December. Most of them were re-reads though – The Parasol Protectorate, The Mercy Thompson Series and the Amelia Peabody mysteries.
Two new to me books that were great were:
Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani – it is a second world fantasy with some interesting twists and great characters. The only problem I had with it is that it is short.
Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter, the third in the Soulwood series. I really love this character and the mystery was very twisty this time around.
I read “The Book Of Genesis Illustrated” by Robert Crumb. It’s quite dry, an endless recitation of names and random events, all in defense of the idea that one or two of the people are actually real. And the random stories and truncated retellings in many case only make sense once you’re told that they once made sense and came from matriarchal societies where high priestesses ritually “got to know people better.” That is, it still doesn’t make sense, but some source material 2,500 years ago, perhaps, maybe made sense to somebody. There are also individual household gods and gods for every ethnic group. It’s not even a book about monotheism! It’s pantheistic! And then of course people “interpret” it to “make” it monotheistic. Ninety percent of it doesn’t tell any moral or religious lessons, it just tells random stories about people like Jacob and Joshua, and they all seem to spend half their time committing crimes but it’s totally cool because god loves them just for being them.
Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant. I really liked her unusual take on mermaids.
It’s a toss-up between two very different books, but I think I’ll give the top spot to An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. It is her debut novel, a remarkable feat of blending an old school generation ship scenario with a society much like the antebellum South.
The other is the latest in a long line of great books by Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez. It’s a short story collection that reminded me of One Hundred Years of Solitude in some ways – fantasy elements and some horror and it’s unclear what it true and what is imagined by the characters. Also, a distinct Latin American feeling that gives the book a very unique flavor.
I just read One Hundred Years of Solitude and loved it. Maybe I’ll check this one out too!
This December I started reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, thinking it couldn’t be as good as everyone said it was. It was better. It took over my life until I could finish it. The narration is this eclectic mix of Spanish jokes and nerd references, and since that’s basically 90% of my brain matter, I guess it’s no surprise I loved it.
I didn’t respond to last month’s post, so I’m having a bit of trouble sorting out the November and December books. I also did almost all rereading due to holiday stress / no new books.
Rereads tend to be favorites and are very difficult to decide which is “best”–the book at the time is the best one for how I’m feeling.
Maybe Scouts Progress by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller was the “best.” The story of mathematician finding agency after years of abuse by a sibling. The other main character has had his wings clipped and is struggling against his society’s conventions. There’s a sequel, Mouse and Dragon.
I also read through the Order of the Air series by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham. A group of pilots plus a medium and thief try to fix the world a little bit at the time. Airplane porn, magic, polyamory (in the past), alternative lifestyles, what’s not to like? Set between WWI and WWII, they can see the next war coming…
Somewhere in the there read Guardian of the Crown, a Tremontane novel (novella?) by Melissa McShane. I quite enjoy these and look forward to the next book which should be out later this year.
I’ve been revisiting the early Liaden books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. So far I’ve read Local Custom (same generation as Scouts Progress), Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, and Plan B.
Currently reading latest Atevi novel by C.J. Cherryh; after that, possibly the Big Meow by Diane Duane or I Dare by Lee and Miller.
Prince of Thorns- Mark Lawrence
My favorite was a reread/listen of Oathbringer. I love to read the book in my favorite series then listen to the audiobook, especially the Stormlight archives. Kate Reading and Michael Kramer do a fantastic job of bring the characters to life.
My favorite read from last month was The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard. I loved the story and wish it was longer but can’t really say much about it yet since it doesn’t come out until March 31st.
Kevin S, 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!