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 April 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.
Read a few good books last month, these are the four and five stars:
Sword of Destiny, Andrej Sapkowski: one of the Witcher books. Listened to the audio and enjoyed the heck out of it. Though I do wish he’d get over the sorceress.
Tricks for Free, Seanan McGuire; the latest in the InCryptid series with a setting of a Disney like theme park.
Linesman, SK Dunstall; a new to me author and I enjoyed this book a lot – mostly for the interpersonal relationships and the humor.
First Test, Page & Squire, Tamora Pierce; three of four books in one of her Tortall arcs. All quick and enjoyable reads about a girl trying to make it in a ‘man’s profession’.
April, overall I was disappointed with TRICKS FOR FREE, although I loved both the gorgon and the idea of the highway witches. I guess I missed the Aeslin mice.
Yes, they were sadly lacking in Tricks for Free. I missed them too.
No doubt on this one, best of the month, best of the year so far, is The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang.
I’ve read some really good ones recently, but a standout has been Mike Shel’s “Aching God.” Copy and paste of my review below:
Playing role-playing games is one of my fondest memories of childhood. Most of the details from those D&D campaigns have faded, but the feeling of anticipation, discovery, and camaraderie still lingers to this day. There was nothing better than getting together with a group of friends and adventuring into the unknown for countless hours each weekend, excited and nervous and awed by whatever threat was around the next bend. I had thought those affections a thing of the past, so I was admittedly surprised when I experienced a similar wave of emotions while reading Mike Shel’s debut novel, Aching God. Somehow Shel was able to capture the essence of playing a thrilling role-playing game and transfer it into a rich and compelling narrative filled with likable heroes, horrifying villains, and surprising mysteries.
Shel has a substantial resume as a freelance writer and developer of adventure modules for the Pathfinder RPG, so it’s plain to see how his experience in the genre has led to such a polished and well-developed novel. Like many of the modules and adventures that Shel has developed in his career, the story takes place in a traditional fantasy setting, with priests, clerics, spell-swords, fighters, and mages that square off against undead evils and ancient gods from lost civilizations. The story follows Auric, a retired adventurer who is pulled back into the fray after learning that his old brotherhood has fallen victim to a terrible plague that has cursed their citadel of operation. This brotherhood of adventurers had been tasked with exploring centuries-old tombs of an ancient, long-dead civilization across the sea, and one unfortunate expedition brought back a treasure that led to the triggering of this deadly plague. After Auric finds out that he has a great personal stake in solving this crisis, he joins a band of tomb-raiding companions tasked with returning the cursed treasure back where it was found. Unfortunately, this tomb happens to be the home of a malicious and unspeakably evil god, and no one really knows if returning the treasure will have any positive effect. Throughout the journey, Auric is haunted by tragedies of his past while trying to protect those in the present, all the while knowing that not everyone is likely going to survive.
There’s so much to enjoy in this book. Auric remains the primary point-of-view for the entire novel, yet it was easy to become attached to many of the supporting characters in his traveling party. The friendship and loyalty that develops between Auric and the mace-wielding fighter Belech is one of the highlights of the story, as is the journey of the earnest and endearing priestess Sira. It was also refreshing to have a singular purpose in the novel that never wavered: the goal of the quest was consistent from beginning to end. Shel did an admirable job raising the tension as the party neared their goal, and there were some genuinely frightening scenes of terror and discomfort as the nightmarish scenarios began to pile up. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, and there are plenty of twists and turns along the way that kept me on my toes. We also learn about the theological history of the realm, as well as some major events that are happening on the outskirts of our story. I have a feeling that these events will be further developed in the next book of the series, but I was happy to discover that this book can be easily treated as a standalone novel. That won’t be the case for me, as I plan to devour the next volume as soon as it’s released. Shel has created an intriguing world of high, epic fantasy that delivers on all fronts. If you’re a fan of classic RPG adventures or just an extremely well-written novel, then make sure to pick up a copy of Aching God. It’s rare to find a debut novel that reads as well as this, which has me excited about what Shel will be able to produce down the road.
Space Opera by Cat Valente. OMG it’s amazing, funny, sad, quick witted, it’s Awsome.
I read some real clunkers in April but did find two books that stood out:
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (unfortunately I found the next two books in the series to be mediocre at best)
April was a real good reading month with a lot of decent books in the queue. The best of the bunch by quite a bit was the Bobiverse trilogy that were enjoyable from start to finish.
Spent most of the month reading Lark Rise to Candleford, so the only genre titles I finished were The Babylon Eye by Masha du Toit and The Iron Chain by Steve Cockayne (sequel to Wanderers and islanders). I will go with the former as the best read of the month…still trying to figure out the latter and the overall story that Cockayne is constructing.
The Babylon Eye is an interdimensional portal just offshore of Capetown, providing a passageway between our world, the Real, and another world or set of worlds known as the Strange. The heroine, an ex-ecoterrorist turned cyber-K9 cop turned jailbird, is inserted into this portal as an undercover agent, in search of a new model enhanced canine brought illegally into the portal and subsequently lost. Her job is to locate this dog and either get it back to its corporate owners or terminate it with extreme prejudice, so the competition can’t get their hands on it. There is a bit of clunkiness to the exposition at the start, but once the story gets going it’s pretty engrossing. It had a slightly retro vibe and the characters kept me interested enough that I didn’t question the plot developments very closely.
In The Iron Chain, the design of the wizard’s Empathy Engine from the first book has been adapted to a multi-station communications network, which allows the malevolent androgyne spirit that was somehow produced by the original engine to get loose in the world at large. A lot of elements of the worldbuilding seem more Dickensian or even allegorical than coming across as a real world that the author believes in. If you took a dollop of China Mieville and mixed in some R. A. Lafferty with additional original content, you might get something like this. What message the story is trying to impart I guess I will have to get in full from the third book.
I started but haven’t finished Fair Rebel, the latest book in Steph Swainston’s Fourlands saga. Her world is far more bizarre than the worlds of either of the two books I finished, kind of like Roger Zelazny updated to the 21st century, but what impresses me most is just how much she believes in it. The two books I finished don’t have that same feeling of the author’s utter commitment to the reality of her world. I guess not many books do.
The best book I read last month was not a fantasy or sci-fi book. But I really liked Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.
The 2nd Complete Elfquest.
I just finished “The Lady Travelers Guide To Larceny With a Dashing Stranger” by Victoria Alexander. I’d never read an out-and-out “romance novel” before. It is basically a 19th-century-style novel that is a fun romp, but there is a “sex scene” stuck in the middle that I very much could have done without! When you get to the mention of our heroine’s “bodice,” just skip ahead to the next chapter!
Definitely Fool’s Errand! Fitz’s story line keeps hooking me in. You learn more about the fool and Chade and become attached to the mission Fitz has for the prince.
My best was the latest Astreiant book, Point of Sighs, by Melissa Scott. Medievalish setting with a low countries feel where astrology is real and your birth stars usually influence your profession. The main characters are Nico Rathe, a pointsman aka policeman, and Philip Eslingen, ex-mercenary and now city guardsman.
I also read The Tea Master and the Detective which I liked but wasn’t bowled over by. I’m eyeing the other Xuya stories but none have grabbed my attention yet.
I also reread Murderbot: All Systems Red in preparation for book 2 which is coming out next week.
Plus a few Emerson-Peabody books. I jumped ahead to read the ones set around WWI and then went back to when they first met David Todros.
I’ve been re-reading the Amelia Peabody books as well! Just waiting for the next one to come available on audio at my library. I’m also re-reading (listening) to the Confederation series by Tanya Huff (action-packed space opera) and the Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs (shape shifter murder mysteries). I always forget to include those here because I figure I’ve mentioned them before but I guess there are people who may not have read my past ramblings.
The Ritual by Adam Nevill…really great horror.
My favorite book last month was All systems red by Martha Wells. I loved her Raksura series and wanted to try out her other books. This novella did not disappoint me!
My favorite thing about it was the protagonist, a MurderBot whose anti-social tendencies are strangely relatable. It was just a charming and surprisingly funny read. I loved it.
Winston Graham’s The Angry Tide. Yet another exciting installment in the Poldark saga! I just devour these books from one to the other, reading about all my favorite characters in Cornwall.
I would definitely have to say Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. The depiction of the future is at once depressing and humorous, absurd and realistic. Practically every sentence pops. A very impressive book all around.
“The First Governess of the Netherlands: Margaret of Austria” by Eleanor Tremayne. I love books that reveal historical facts about real people that make you go, “Wow, why have I not heard about this before?” So relatively little of history is in the popular reference pool.
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this but last month for the first time I picked up Dune by Frank Herbert. I enjoyed it and am now on to God emperor of Dune I can’t believe how long it’s taking me to read these.
Issam A, 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!