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 February 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 didn’t do too much reading. Started 2 books but haven’t finished either. I decided I needed a break and to reread something I hadn’t read for a long time. I bought book 3 of the series on sale so i decided to read the first book–Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters.
The story of a late 19th century British woman who decides to see the world. She takes on a fallen woman as companion in Rome and heads to Egypt where they encounter two archaeologist brothers and shenanigans ensue.
I bounced off it the first time I tried to read it. On the second try, I found Amelia lots of fun. My favorite books of the series are when future family members are grown up.
One of my favorite series! I love listening to them in audio, they are great!
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz! Lots of fun with a social justice sensibility.
I’ve enjoyed the Amelia Peabody books too! But not last month. My February SFF pick would have to be Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. Great story about a not too distant future alternate earth where robots can become autonomous & drug pirates engage in a kind of pharmaceutical Robinhoodism. Social justice wrapped in humor!
No disappointments this month. The best book I started and finished in February was Brian McClellan’s Sins of Empire, a flintlock fantasy with immensely likable viewpoint characters (yes, even the spy for the secret police) on different sides of an ethnic conflict in a newly independent country. To make matters worse (and more interesting), an external enemy is monitoring the excavation of a monumental magical artifact and preparing to send troops in to seize it. As I was reading this, I could see some echoes of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and the Black Company novels. The Lady Chancellor Linnet seems like an obvious villainess at first, but maybe, like Empress Laseen in Erikson’s series or The Lady in Cook’s, she just knows a little bit more than the heroes about the real threats. Very readable, although I wasn’t sure how plausible some of the action was at the frantic finish (how did the Mad Lancers get to the artifact so fast from way on the other side of the city?), and of course we need to wait for the next two books to see how it all plays out. This isn’t grimdark, although there is a high body count and various characters fight on through the kind of injuries that would be fatal in real life.
Two very good sequels: Memorie of Ash by Intisar Khanani, sequel to Sunbolt, follows Hitomi as she plots to bust her mentor out from imprisonment, under the noses of the High Council of Mages–an extended “caper” type tale that doesn’t lose sight of the human side of the story. Also, Voyager by Jan Mark, sequel to Riding Tycho, where Demetria must decide whether to continue on to the peaceable southern continent, as she had hoped when attempting her hellish ocean escape, or stay with the Underground to resist the oppressive northern regime. Both very involving reads.
Also read a few fast-paced and less epic novels. Genevieve Cogman’s latest in her Irene the Librarian series, The Lost Plot, was mostly fun, but the ending left me with some mixed feelings (much like the previous installment). The Secret of Sinharat, a novella by today’s standards, and People of the Talisman were paired in an old Ace double by Leigh Brackett, a good writer who could out-Burroughs ERB. Grim warrior Eric John Stark (of course shown on the book covers as white, although the text clearly describes him as black) fights his way through the deserts of Mars in much the same manner as Tarzan or Robert E. Howard’s Conan. I also read another Rick Brant series novel, The Egyptian Cat Mystery, where Rick is the unwitting pawn in a scheme to overthrow the United Arab Republic, a union of Egypt and Syria that only existed briefly around when this novel was published. Given the US government’s antagonism toward Nasser, the author portrays the UAR in a surprisingly favorable light.
That leaves one more book, Cloud and Ashes by Greer Ilene Gilman, which I finally finished in February. The only fair description one can give this book is “masterpiece”, but like some other books that share that description, it’s a VERY difficult read–it took me 8 YEARS of reading it on and off to finally get to the last page. The language seems to be mostly a northern English regional dialect mixed with some Shakespearean English, the setting is mythical but very bleak, the story is non-linear and often reads like a prose poem, and very painful things happen to characters in the tale. But it has moments of intense beauty that made me want to stay with it. There is nothing else like Cloud and Ashes. But it’s hard.
Blackwing by Ed Mcdonald, great postapocalyptic grim fantasy. Iron gold by Pierce Brown, the rising is over but the war is not! Both 5 out of 5.
I read “Unfair” by Adam Benforado, a book about the American criminal justice system.
Outside of re-reads, I read five books I rated at four or five stars. They are:
Hell Bent by Devon Monk, a spinoff of her Allie Beckstrom urban fantasy series. This one starts after the finish of the other and stars two of the secondary characters from the first series. What I liked most about this book is the example it gives of how people may seem to be one way but are actually completely different and until you really get to know them you will only see the outside trappings.
Magic of the Gargoyles by Rebecca Chastain which is the first in a series of very short novels, maybe novellas I suppose that are all about someone who discovers a new way to do something that is helpful for a portion of society that is taken for granted. I read the first three and they were all good.
Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker is a scifi about a ship captain who has to pick up her life after war and injury. Her path to a new life gets rocky and she ends up working with a disparate group of people to get through an adventure she didn’t expect.
These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker was an unexpected gem for me. The cover seemed to give me a different vibe than the actual story so I got a period drama with magic that was fun.
Behind the Throne by KB Wagers is a scifi about a gunrunner who isn’t what she appears to be and finds out that trying to escape your past never works for very long. Very good and twisty political drama. I’m reading the second right now which is equally as good as the first.
Been reading mostly short stories for Hugo consideration, only 2 novels early in the month. I really enjoyed Tom Miller’s debut The Philosopher’s Flight, but was less than impressed with an older title, Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal. The only other thing I reviewed was JY Yang’s Tensorate duology, liking The Red Threads of Fortune just a bit more than the Nebula-nominated The Black Tides of Heaven.
Probably the best thing I’ve read is a non-fiction essay at Uncanny, which is at the top of my list to nominate for Best Related Work. I urge everyone to read it – https://uncannymagazine.com/article/shape-darkness-overtakes-us/
I finished Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky last month, and it was just as amazing as Every Heart a Doorway. She definitely keeps raising the bar!
I had a really good reading month. I would say my favorite though was Walkaway by Cory Doctorow.
Janne, 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!