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

FanLit Readers' Favorites!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 May 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.

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  1. Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova, second book in her Brooklyn Brujas series.

  2. Trisha McCullough /

    The Cruel Prince. Fantastic read of fae, politics, and humans.

  3. Mistborn: The Final Empire. I know I’m way late to the party but I’m finally starting up on Sanderson’s pile. Loved it! Currently on Well of Ascension.

  4. Kevin S. /

    On the Beach by Nevil Shute. Radiation from a nuclear war in the northern hemisphere slowly moves toward the southern hemisphere. Set in Australia. Written in 1957.

    Shadows Linger (The Chronicles of the Black Company #2) by Glen Cook.

    Boundary Waters by William Kent Krueger.

  5. I’m getting back into Daniel Abraham‘s The Dagger And The Coin series. I re-read the The Dragon’s Path, which was my best read last month. I’m currently nearing the end of the 2nd book of the series, and I’m planning to read the rest back-to-back.

  6. The Distinguished Professor /

    Finished off my reading of the Poldark series with Bella Poldark!

  7. Noneofyourbusiness /

    Will Trisha McCullough’s second duplicate comment be deleted or something so as not to confuse the Random Number Generator that picks the winner?

    I really enjoyed reading the graphic novel Twilight Man for its use of Zoroastrianism.

    • I will fix that comment, Noneofyourbusiness. (Although I think Marion types the names into the generator.)

      I had to look up Zoroastrianism, so thanks for that!

      • Noneofyourbusiness /

        Welcome! I was surprised to learn in the author extras of Twilight Man how obscure Zoroastrianism has become, but then I was a big mythology buff from a young age.

  8. Probably The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold. Ekaterin is working with Enrique on radiation-eating butter bugs.

    I also whipped through the Peter and Kori Brichter series of 5 mysteries which are available now as ebooks. They’re by Mary Monica Pulver who, after this series, began co-writing the Sister Frevisse medieval mystery series with Gail Lynn Brown under the Margaret Frazer pseudonym. She also wrote a long-running cozy mystery series as by Monica Ferris.

    Back to the Brichters. The first published book, Murder at the War was also published as Knight Fall. It’s set at a Pennsic War, a big SCA meeting in Pennsylvania (it’s set around 22 or 23 when the War was only a few thousand people and lasted a long weekend). Kori stumbles upon a dying man–who was about to be kicked out and with whom she’d had a run-in earlier. Her husband, Peter, is a police detective and is asked to quietly try to solve the murder. It suffers from being too tightly bound to its time and definitely before the #MeToo movement. There’s also a lot of description of the medieval and Renaissance wear and armor, etc. so if you’re not interested in that kind of detail or in the SCA, you probably won’t like the book. The 2nd book, The Unforgiving Minutes, backs up to show Peter and Kori meeting. Of the later books, one is set at a xmas house party (almost a locked room), one at a Arabian horse show, and one involving arson.

  9. Lady Morar /

    Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, is a fantastic collection of gaslight fantasies from authors including some of my favorites like Cat Valente and Jane Yolen. Of particular note is the Bronte Sisters story “We Without Us Were Shadows” by Valente, which is now the basis for a series of books. I also enjoyed learning more about the real-life Sleeping Beauty painting series in Elizabeth Wein’s “For the Briar Rose”.

  10. Roy Taylor /

    Bancroft’s ARM OF THE SPHINX.

  11. Paul Connelly /

    An odd selection of books makes for a very long list this month–I will go with The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso as the best, or at least the most enjoyable, book. It’s a wholly fictional world with some echoes of 15th century Europe and magic that manifests as what are, in effect, different super-powers in rare individuals. The aristocratic heroine gets personal control over (“tethers”) a fire mage, one that the rulers want her to use to burn down a rebellious city-state. She has extreme qualms about this, understandably, and the involuntarily conscripted pyromancer is, also understandably, bitter at being tied to this other woman for the rest of their lives. So there are issues of trust betrayed and trust reluctantly given, the plotting of competing political factions, and the interference of malign foreign powers. Not a perfect book, and not great literature, but well-paced with believable characters who are mostly sympathetic.

    Fair Rebel by Steph Swainston is in many ways a better-written book, but it sets itself the rather impossible task of continuing the author’s surreal Fourlands saga while delving into the mind and motives of a terrorist. If you read The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams and found the 9/11-like scenes in that book disturbing, you will also be upset by the 9/11-like attack in this book. And I came away not sure that the terrorist convert that we follow is that similar to the terrorists that have claimed comparable numbers of victims in real life. Good to be back in this world, but an uncomfortable read.

    Frances Hardinge comes up with another original and different story in A Skinful of Shadows, about ghosts being implanted in the bodies of living people. The only common factor in the four books I’ve read by Hardinge is the protagonist being a young woman or older adolescent girl, but otherwise the settings and plots have varied wildly. This one is set at the beginning of the English Civil War while Charles I is still fighting to hang onto power. It’s very well written historical fantasy with a large helping of horror.

    Also read Volume 2 of the Black Magick graphic novel series and am already looking forward to the next one. The plot is still a bit murky to me, but the Wiccan police detective and her HP are interesting characters to follow, and the two hostile forces targeting them (a high tech Christian anti-witchcraft group and a demonic sorcerous group) keep the tension ratcheting up. The artwork by Nicola Scott is impressive.

    Then there’s the latest from Caitlin Kiernan, Black Helicopters, which melds Lovecraftian alien monsters with monstrous intelligence agency black ops, including a very black op being run by a rogue scientist with her own agenda. Laird Barron’s SF/spy/horror also mines this territory, but Kiernan feels more like an updated New Wave take on it. Think Samuel R. Delany from between The Fall of the Towers and Nova, with a dash of Atrocity Exhibition Ballard, and dark wiry strands of autobiographical detail. In Kiernan, there’s a conscious de-emphasis on plot and having the story “make sense” in one explicit way, while suggesting several ways that the story can be read–the point of the story is not plot or even story itself in the narrative sense. Though it *feels* like a story–with odd jumps in time and some seriously messed up viewpoints, and you may get to the end and ask, “What happened?” (Spoiler: the human race is doomed is what happened.) If you’ve read Agents of Dreamland, the Signalman from that story (where the human race is also doomed, although maybe in a different way) makes a couple of brief appearances in this tale. It’s Lovecraft post-9/11 with burnt-out spies and a hopeless future.

    In The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross continues taking *his* riff on “Lovecraft and spies” in a darker direction. The early books in the Laundry series were more light-hearted in their tales of a computer geek conscripted into an occult intelligence service, complete with tentacled horrors and mind-numbing committee meetings and bureaucratic paperwork. Around the fifth book, the tone became grimmer and the body count has gone up in each succeeding novel, making it no longer a fantasy about something that could be going on now that us ordinary folks are unaware of because of the Official Secrets Act. Not when elves have invaded Yorkshire to the tune of thousands of human casualties and the RAF has been dogfighting dragons, as in this installment. It’s a hard to put down story, yet some of the charm of the overall concept has been wearing thin since the first couple of books. A reflection of the world outside the story, perhaps.

  12. John Smith /

    I finally read “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue” by Mackenzi Lee. It’s a bit like “The Thief Lord,” with a lot of running-around escapades and then a tacked-on bit of magic in Venice at the end. I doubt people in the 18th-century talked about “renting flats.” Anyway, it was pretty good. I give it 3.2 to 3.4 out of 5, but I had sky-high expectations!

  13. Fee Roberts /

    Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer. The first book in The Rhenwars Saga. I felt it was tastefully written. I loved it.

  14. mary henaghen /

    Space Opera by Cat Valente. All I can say is WOW! It blew my socks off. So different, emotional, quick witted, just WOW.

  15. Sethia /

    Let’s see I enjoyed the Southern reach Trillogy by Jeff Vandermere. I also really enjoyed the Red Rising Trillogy by Pierce Brown.

  16. Greg Blickley, 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!

  17. Whoo hoo! Thank you so much! I will contact you today. Thanks again!

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