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 January 2018 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.
I loved Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. I liked the way the story unfolded with plenty to keep you interested. Oh, and lots of action!
January was a decent reading month for me. Without re-reads, I had one five star book:
Wildfire by Ilona Andrews – this is the third in this series that if I was only looking at the cover I’d never have read. The covers are smarmy but the story is as excellent as this writing team usually creates.
With four four star books:
Hell Bent by Devon Monk is the first in a spinoff duology of her Allie Beckstrom series. Very good story if not terribly uplifting – bad stuff is happening and the good guys are on the job.
The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis is a debut novel, first in a series and the humor here is really well done. If you like snarky military stories with airships, this might be for you. Though be warned, as happens in any war, people lose limbs and such.
Scriber by Ben S. Dobson is an excellent second world fantasy with a main character that is well written enough that I was able to follow along even though I didn’t like him much at first. He grew and grew on me.
Legend Has It by Elliot James is the 5th in the Pax Arcana series; urban fantasy with a werewolf who used to be a Templar Knight.
I read a lot of YA and younger oriented books in January.
Already mentioned elsewhere that the two JY Yang novellas, The Black Tide of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune, didn’t really satisfy me. It’s a semi-familiar plot (royal children go over to the resistance against their despotic family) in a less familiar Asian-like setting, but characterization and worldbuilding suffered from the compression into novella length stories.
More satisfying, although very grim, was Riding Tycho by the late Jan Mark, about an impoverished island community paid to house (but minimally interact with) political prisoners from the mainland. Violence against females is socially acceptable if the right person is doing it (a parent, husband or brother), which makes the young heroine’s life miserable, but it’s the only life she knows–until one of the political prisoners starts talking about the planet he came from. I have the sequel and plan to read that this month.
I also re-read 4 books that I last read back around 1960. Tarzan and the Forbidden City by ERB, Pippi Longstocking and Mischievous Meg by Astrid Lindgren, and the Rick Brant series novel The Wailing Octopus by “John Blaine”. The Tarzan book is pretty clunky, with all kinds of politically incorrect stereotypes and a pretty silly plot (the lost civilization shtick was already getting old when this was written, and Burroughs lacks the vivid–sometimes purple–prose of A. Merritt). But Tarzan, like Robert E. Howard’s Conan, is a crafty fellow, a man of few words, and deeply skeptical of the merits of civilization, which redeems the story somewhat. Of the Lindgrens, Pippi is the more overtly fantastic, to the point of being Paul Bunyanesque in its absurdity, while Meg is more likable. The Rick Brant book (about a older teenager whose scientist parents live on an island enclave with other geniuses) has what was then high tech gear being used underwater in the Virgin Islands–not real great writing (characters have zero introspection) but moves along at decent “Cold War spy story” clip.
On the recommendation of a poster here I read Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani, about a young girl with untrained magical powers in a despotic Asian-like setting. Not a very original plot, but the heroine and the overall story were very engaging, kind of like an updated version of one of the Andre Norton fantasies I read and loved as a youngster.
Two books that didn’t fit the YA category: Wanderers and Islanders by Steve Cockayne, a book I’ve been carrying around for a dozen years, about three men in a more modern fantasy world setting whose lives get warped out of shape and brought into convergence by a malevolent spirit; and Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng, a self-consciously gothic story of missionaries trying to Christianize the realm of Faerie, with a haunted castle, madness, incest, heretical Bible texts, murder, and an evil fairy queen. The Cockayne book I liked but have to think about a lot more (and read the two sequels). The Ng story is like an exotic meal that leaves you feeling not very full afterwards–it had some gorgeous writing but it wasn’t clear to me what the payoff was at the end, although it had a definite end which was not at all incomplete.
Out of that bunch, I will go with Sunbolt as my favorite, for its Andre Norton-like qualities. Looking forward to Khanani’s Memories of Ashes, which I believe is a sequel.
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi.
I finally got to it, and it was as good as I expected. I love Scalzi’s humor, too :).
I just read the graphic novel “Koko Be Good” by Jen Wang. It was quite good!
I started several books but haven’t finished them.
I was glad to visit with Bren and company in Cherryh’s latest, Emergence.
Went meh after reading a recent Faye Kellerman. I really enjoyed the first few Decker/Lazarus novels, continued through book 14 or 15 and gave up. That was probably 10 years ago. This one, The Bone Box, was odd in that it ended up with brief appearances by a ton of previous characters. If I hadn’t already heard that she was working on the next book, I would have guessed this was the final book.
Best books were the Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat. Not usually my thing but I found them very readable and kept wondering, when will they? about the main characters. Princes from neighboring kingdoms find themselves working together to recover both kingdoms when one is sent into slavery after a coup and the other has been battling assassination attempts by his uncle, the regent. At least R rated, torture scenes,etc.
Mostly I read cozy mysteries last month. My favorite of those was Unbridled Murder by Leigh Hearon, the third book in her Carson Stables series.
The only sci-fi book I read was Make Room! Make Room! By Harry Harrison which was just so so. We had just re-watched Soylent Grden and I realized I’d never read the book it was based on. I prefer the movie.
You’ve given me a new mystery author to explore, so thank you! And in light of the source of Soylent Green, “Soylent Garden” sounds sinister.
Should be Soylent Green in the above post
January was a very good month for me, but it would be easier to say what my least favorite book was, and that was a former Nebula winner. The following are the best, my Top 5, in reading order not necessarily preference.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novella Prime Meridian, about a Mexican woman trapped in a stagnant economy who hasn’t given up on her long time goal of emigrating to Mars. Poignant, heart-breaking, but ultimately optimistic.
Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo, a retelling of an African folktale with a lot of humor, but it also goes to some dark places.
Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Night Masquerade, which I fervently hope is not the last we see of that remarkable character and universe.
Back to Karen Lord and her second novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds, which is science fiction on a grand scale, highly sociological and psychological in nature. Also a love story, but not what you might expect.
Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing was devastating. I loved it, but it might be too intense for some readers. Trigger warnings for cruelty to humans and animals, and a general disregard for decency and compassion on the part of several characters.
I’m going to have to read Prime Meridian and the Bolander novella.
Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire. It was short, but wonderful.
After a terrible month of reading in December, I read three books in January that were really good:
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons (sequel to Summer of Night)
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
I finally read Howl’s Moving Castle and it was ADORABLE. I loved how whimsical and fun it was while still being a solid fantasy story. I wish I’d read it earlier.
I read Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and Beneath the Sugared Sky. OMG, I know why Every Heart a Doorway won almost every award it was nominated for, what an amazing world! And the other 2 in the series don’t disappoint!
Melita, 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!
Yay! Thank you. Email has been sent.