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 October 2019 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. John Smith /

    I found “The Amulet of Samarkand” by Jonathan Stroud to be an exciting thrill ride! I also read his wonderful “The Empty Grave,” and I will definitely be reading more Jonathan Stroud!

  2. Mary Henaghen /

    I finally got a chance to read Middlegame by Seanan McGuire. The book was even better than I was expecting, and kept me guessing til the very end.

  3. Kevin S. /

    A few months ago, I won a free book from the stacks and I chose Traitors Blade by Sebastien de Castell. It was by far the best book I read in October. It was a hugely pleasant surprise. 4.5 stars on Goodreads.

  4. I finally read The Hound of Justice, sequel to A Study in Honor, by Claire O’Dell. Alternative near-future US, with a new civil war. Janet Holmes is a veteran who lost an arm. She has a fancy new prosthetic and is working towards becoming a surgeon again. She became entangled with the affairs of one Sara Holmes in the first book. This book follows up some dangling threads from the first book. I didn’t think it as strong as the first but still quite good. Something happens near the end that I didn’t find believable at all, which soured it a bit for me.

    I then read the beautiful and open-ended To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers. People have crowd-funded space exploration and this follows a small group as they check out various worlds for possible colonization.

    I needed something more…definite…after that so started on a reread of the Murderbot Diaries. How long until the novel??? I’d have to say that my favorite of the month is Murderbot.

    This crossed months, and I didn’t arrive there until November but I attended part of World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles. My book bag included Gideon the Ninth, a Salvatore, Tad Williams (GOH), Jenn Lyons, and Micah Dean Hicks plus DAW had a pb of excerpts from a bunch of upcoming publications.

    One thing I’ve noticed about this con is that people on the panels tend to have new books out which can derail things a bit. I only went to a few panels but the moderators did a good job of keeping things moving and having interesting questions to ask the panelists.

    Not like previous years where one author who was on a children’s fantasy panel was asked about the scene in the UK where she was from. “Oh, I don’t really follow it,” she replied. O-kay! I’m sure that thrilled the moderator. Or the panel on non-European fantasy/characters with a lovely set of panelists. The moderator kept reading out long, thoughtful responses to prompts that she’d asked other authors…who weren’t there. I couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t asking the panelists who were **right there**.

    Admittedly, this year during the audience question period for a panel on diversity, a man said he’d been talking to a young, white, male author who was shopping around a novel with a female, Asian protagonist. The author was being told by editors that they wouldn’t even look at it because he was white/male/not a minority.

    • I love Murderbot!

      Melita, I really enjoyed your views on conventions! I laughed, but I winced too, because I’ve seen these same behaviors in panels, except for reading responses from people who aren’t on the panel. That’s a new one!

    • Noneofyourbusiness /

      That’s right, I saw your name there on a nametag. Both on a woman I presume was yourself and at one point on a man who I presume was holding it for you.

      • Yep, I let my partner borrow my badge so he could see the dealer’s room. He’s a rockhound so he was interested in the jewelry and how various stones were being used. He does read some fantasy but isn’t really interested in the “field.”

  5. Susan Whitehead /

    I can’t stop at one book for the month. I’ve got 3 I’d recommend.

    Joe Abercrombie’s A Little Hatred. Wasn’t sure he’d be able to sustain the level he reached in Red Country but this was a well written book. Really got into the characters and the back references were fun.

    Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga. I very much enjoyed both the mashup of Asian cultures and the quirky characters. A quick read.

    Ed McDonald’s Crowfall. This was the third book in his trilogy The Raven’s Mark. I think this is a solid 4 series: interesting and accessible world, good pace, well constructed plot with enough twists to keep you interested but not so many that you got confused, and strong characters. In short, all of the elements I look for in a good book.

  6. Paul Connelly /

    Will have o go with Monstress (Vol. 4) as the best read. This episode introduces new characters to the saga, including one of personal significance to antiheroine Maika Halfwolf. There’s still a lot of blood spilled, but the level of carnage is not quite as high as in preceding volumes. We find out who subverted Master Ren and is behind Kippa’s kidnapping. Tuya is holding out for peace with the Federation (humans), while her wife is gearing up for all-out war. Meanwhile the new player is recruiting for total war against all sides. Zinn is not featured prominently in this one–still shell-shocked from the disaster at Pontus in the last volume. One of these volumes will hopefully give us the big picture of what’s going on, but until then there’s the beautiful artwork and ever-escalating plot complications to keep us happy.

    I struggled with Kay Kenyon’s Nest of the Monarch, latest in her Dark Talents series. The talents are psychic powers that suddenly came out in the population after World War I (in this timeline). Neophyte spy Kim has a “spill” talent, meaning when she’s around, people tend to blurt out things they’d otherwise want kept secret. It’s the mid 1930s (Edward is out, George is in) and Kim’s father Julian, a senior intelligence agent, has sent her to Germany as the supposed wife of a British trade official, to see what secrets she can overhear Nazi officials spilling. But she distrusts her “husband”, and is doubting the other British assets she’s supposed to be working with, after getting tangled up with a Jewish resistance fighter named Hannah, who claims to have a hitherto unknown talen: “catalyst”. Being a catalyst doesn’t benefit the holder of the talent, but it allows them to increase the power of someone else’s talent, which obviously has great military value. Kim wants to get Hannah out and over to Britain, but Hannah wants Kim to go after the one other person who has the catalyst talent, a minor Russian noble whom the Nazis are promising to install as Tsarina of Russia if she amps up the power of the SS corps of talents. Kim has a history of always taking the riskiest action, but in this case she lets Hannah talk her into what sure sounds like a suicide mission. I kept stopping every few chapters, because what she was doing seemed so insane. To make matters worse, being “exalted” or “purified” by a catalyst causes severe mental problems sooner or later, and Kim gets the treatment twice in a few days, once from Hannah and once from the would be tsarina. So she’s smirking and giggling in the middle of horribly dangerous situations and suffering from bouts of manic optimism when a clear head is called for. I made it to the end finally, although it was painful along the way. But I haven’t given up on the series yet.

    Another struggle of sorts was Joe Abercrombie’s A Little Hatred, which started off like it was grasping for every grim and dark detail it could cram into the narrative to justify the author’s reputation. It did settle down a bit and turn into a story of long-suffering parents and their variously unsatisfactory adult children, as the latter rushed into the midst of wars and revolutions. There are seven viewpoint characters, some more interesting than others, as might be expected. It wasn’t completely, unrelentingly grim–there were even some laugh-out-loud moments. But most of the humor was very black. Abercrombie has mastered the trick of making you want to keep reading about characters who are not at all good people, by giving them some spark of humanity that allows the reader to identify with them (well, except for Clover, in my case). I thought the plot twist to keep Savine and Orso apart was contrived and unoriginal. But of course the first book in a series couldn’t just come to a happy ending, and the last hundred pages undid much of the good that was achieved before that. In fact, the plot had a rather schematic aspect, with many symmetrical character roles, actions and situations. Great literature this is not, but it’s interesting enough to warrant a look at the sequel.

  7. In October 2019, I read both “War Girls” by Tochi Onyebuchi and “The Deep” by Rivers Solomon. Both stories are based on historical events in Africa’s, and humanity’s, history.

    “War Girls” follows sisters who become separated by the two warring sides of a civil war in future Nigeria. From there, both sisters become victim and participant in the war and they experience the brutality of war from all angles. This is based on the Nigerian Civil War of the 1970s (?).

    “The Deep” is a novella that will make you recall “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. Mer-people, who are descendants of captured Africans thrown overboard to drown before they could be sold into American Slavery, live in the depths of the oceans. Amongst them is a “historian,” someone who holds the memories of everyone’s past. The story is poignant, and it makes you question the responsibilities that comes with a given title.

  8. Noneofyourbusiness /

    After having heard Neil Gaiman read “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” in Carnegie Hall years ago, finally reading the prose version in “Stories” (edited by Neil and Al Sarrantonio) is even better than I expected!

  9. Lady Morar /

    Kate Quinn continues to amaze me. “The Serpent and the Pearl” tells many secrets of the Borgias. Alexander VI was actually a pretty progressive Pope, but unfortunately coddling his children was his weakness.

  10. L.X. Beckett’s Gamechanger.
    It’s set after the warming and despite that, it’s a world where (most) people are decent to each other and there’s hope for mitigating the damage done to the climate. I really liked it and I’m looking forward to the sequel coming out next year.

  11. The Distinguished Professor /

    In the next installment of Winston Graham’s saga of Cornwall, Ross and Demelza’s first son is born in “Jeremy Poldark”.

  12. Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars

    Finally got around to reading it and was not disappointed. I have already seen the films based on three of the four novellas in the anthology, but that did not take away from the reading experience. My favorites were “1922” and “A Good Marriage.”

  13. Katharine Ott /

    The standout for me in October was “Hild” by Nicola Griffith. I love the ancient British stories and this one was packed full of interesting details and lots of action, celebrating the women for a change.

    I also really enjoyed: “A Place of Execution” by Val McDermid, excellent plotting; “Artemis” by Andy Weir, non-stop action on the moon!; “The Chalk Circle Man” by Fred Vargas, interesting, contemplative mystery translated from the French; and “The Silver Witch” by Paula Brackston, a fun escapist Welsh time slip story.

  14. SandyG /

    Small ?Kingdoms and Other Stories by Charmaine Harris

    I had never heard of these 4 mystery stories by her before and I enjoyed them. The main character is the principal of a school who will do whatever it takes to protect the school’s reputation.

  15. I read a lot of Steven king last month. Pet cemetery, It, and the Shawshank redemption were all good, though my favorite for the month was 11/22/63!

  16. John Smith, 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!

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