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

FanLit Readers' Favorites!To our U.S. readers: Happy Independence Day! Stay safe out there!

It’s the first Thursday of the month. Time to report!

What is the best book you read in June 2020 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.

As always, one commenter will choose a book from our stacks.

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  1. Noneofyourbusiness /

    A Free Comic Book Day preview of “Garbage Night”, a graphic novel about a dog, raccoon and deer who look forward to the eponymous night every year.

  2. Joe Hill’s The Fireman.

    It had been on my list for a while because I enjoy Hill’s work. It’s a big book so that was probably one of the reasons why I had left it on my TBR pile for a while.

    I picked it up mostly because it’s about a pandemic, and I thought it was going to be an interesting read given what we’re going through.

    I’m glad that it didn’t disappoint. I thought that the first half was a little slower than the rest, but I can live with that :). Hill has a great prose that flows smoothly for me. Great read!

  3. The Distinguished Professor /

    I’ve been reading William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill, “The Last Lion”, starting with Volume I, “Visions of Glory”. He had quite a difficult background.

  4. SandyG /

    Four Weddings and an Alien by Fiona Rourke. Even aliens have family issues.

  5. Jacqie Hasan /

    I got ahold of a copy of Jim Butcher’s new book “Battle Ground”. It did not disappoint.

  6. Lady Morar /

    Mental Floss’s “In the Beginning”, a “Mouthwatering Guide to the Origins of Everything”.

  7. Definitely “The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water” by Zen Cho and “The Kingdom of Liars” by Nick Martell.

    The first is a novella about a group of thieves who are traveling for a job when they run into a nun. The story is silkpunk and doesn’t end the way you think it does.

    The second is a debut novel that is a blend of fantasy and mystery. Everyone in the book is a liar, but the question is: who killed the prince?

    • > “The Kingdom of Liars”

      This is the second time I’m hearing good things about this book this week. Definitely I’m intrigued.

  8. John Smith /

    “Minor Feelings” by Cathy Park Hong, with interesting essays on the Asian-American experience.

  9. Paul Connelly /

    In Dave Hutchinson’s The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man, Alex Dolan, a Scots journalist down on his luck in the US, gets an offer he can’t refuse from a tech tycoon: follow the progress of the billionaire’s supercollider project close up and author a book about it with enough “sensawunda” to perk up national morale. Once Alex is on site in Iowa, things start to go wrong quickly. He’s getting short shrift from the scientists on the project even as he’s being pampered with all the luxuries of the rebuilt town–and one unknown enemy has it in for him very personally, while another shady character claims to be from MI6 and wants him to spy on what’s being done. Readers of Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe series will not be surprised when the narrative takes a sharp turn into another dimension about three quarters of the way through, as our bemused hero copes with the weirdness, and shadowy military and intelligence types pile on. More like his Europe books than the much grimmer Shelter, but wrapped up in about 300 pages.

    Iain Sinclair’s Radon Daughters is an extremely dense and difficult read, as if James Joyce and the J. G. Ballard of The Atrocity Exhibition had collaborated on a novel. Parts are close to impenetrable, parts are grotesque, and other parts are extremely funny, often on the same page. The author is also a poet, and the language sometimes obscures the action taking place, even when guns are being fired or bombs are going off–the mention of any significant person or place in a sentence will immediately be followed by a sentence fragment with a striking metaphor. And another sentence fragment with an historical or literary allusion. And another sentence fragment with a clever or derisive reference to a political issue or academic dispute. Verbs are lacking while nouns and adjectives abound. Nominally Todd Sileen, the one-legged protagonist, is trying to hallucinate himself into and past the climax of William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland. Or trying to locate an alleged lost sequel written by Hodgson. Or maybe he’s just trying to hunt down archrival Samuel Coleridge Taylor (not the composer) before Taylor gets him. The geography of East London is like another character. Following the ley lines to the end only led me to more mystification. William Gibson and Michael Moorcock give laudatory blurbs on the cover, but they’re obviously higher powered intellects than this reader.

    The Unspoken Name (A. K. Larkwood) is the same length as the Sinclair novel but it reads way faster. The heroine, Csorwe, who seems to be a sort of orc or goblin priestess, is saved from her own fatal sacrifice by a powerful sorcerer, for reasons that were never totally clear to me. He has a use for her in his search for the Reliquary of Pentravesse, which like the Maltese Falcon is less than it seems. The plot tracks Csorwe’s attempts (hindered by a rival servant of the sorcerer) to find the Reliquary, a quest that is derailed by her rescue of a lovely sorceress from being absorbed into a weaponized group mind. An evil librarian is also out to claim the Reliquary. So the plot machinations required to stretch this out are somewhat predictable, but Csorwe and her love interest are likable, so it only bogged down in a few places. A bit like a Jack Vance fantasy, but cuter and less cynical.

    Lost Objects, a story collection by Marian Womack, resembles her novel The Golden Key in its focus on poisoned landscapes and sinister disappearances. These shorter works are less scattered though. They mostly take place in futures where humans live in the aftermath of mass wildlife extinctions and environmental degradation. Protagonists are at best unhappy and at worst desperate, and relationships the protagonists are involved in lack anything like simple affection. Moody and often dreamlike, the whole presents as an act of anticipatory mourning for the world that we are rushing to destroy.

    The cover of Tim Lebbon’s The Silence proudly announces it was made into a Netflix movie. Not hard to see why. Josh Malerman blurbs another Lebbon novel as “instantly cinematic”, and this is something like a permutation on Malerman’s Bird Box: you’ll be killed if the creatures *hear you* (versus you kill yourself if you *see them*). The horrors are cat-sized Cthulhu/bat/wasp things that fly out of a sealed Moldovan cave system and devastate civilization (or Europe, at least). A deaf girl, her little brother, parents and grandmother try to flee Monmouthshire for Scotland as countless ravening monsters fly toward, and then across, the English Channel. The family suffers some casualties and experiences the usual collapse of civil order, plus the ultimate sign of doom: cell phone networks going dark. Absolutely a page turner, with sympathetic characters (save the usual religious fanatic), but you may get that “I’m being manipulated” feeling, as with movies and TV shows, in places.

    None of these books completely won me over, but the Hutchinson and Larkwood are tied for my best June read.

    • I adored The Unspoken Name, I loved how Larkwood jammed an entire series’ worth of plot into a single volume. I felt like an entire novel was told by the quarter-mark. It was wondeful.

  10. Katharine Ott /

    Best reading for June for me shows a tie between Dana Stabenow’s “Everything Under the Heavens,” a sprawling saga following the granddaughter of Marco Polo (can’t wait to get back to the trilogy), and Michael Robotham’s “Life or Death,” an exciting mystery with a unique twist.

  11. Kevin S. /

    Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse, #8)- James S.A. Corey

  12. Eddie Davis /

    Shorefall, y Robert Jackson Bennett. All of his past novels have been exceptional.

  13. Most of this is copied from my last dreamwidth post (melita66).

    Since last month’s report here, I continued with KJ Charles, reading 14 plus a handful of other books. If there’s no author listed, it’s Charles.

    Okay, so they’re like popcorn or chips and I just can’t stop reading books by KJ Charles! (ratings 3-5 stars) Partially because I can’t figure out what else to read right now. Actually, I did start a reread of Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s First Channel but DNF. I really liked these when I read them in high school/college including tracking down some fanfiction (more difficult at that time in the ’80s) but ugh. Economy still doesn’t make any sense and the writing is…not so good. Post-apocalyptic world where humanity has split into Simes and Gens. Gens produce selyn. Simes need selyn to live. Although Simes can eat most regular food, it’s not enough to survive on for very long. A Sime normally needs a gen’s whole production of selyn each month and kills the Gen. Gens don’t start producing selyn until puberty. Although there’s some hunting for “wild” Gens, it doesn’t seem sustainable for very long. I tried this in the middle of the period.

    A Seditious Affair (Society of Gentleman) – Regency England. Dominic Frey works for the government, specifically the department that deals with sedition and traitors AKA the illegal pamphleteers and radicals. He ends up entangled with Silas Mason, radical. They’re…very compatible behind closed doors but neither one realizes who the other one is. A colleague of Dominic’s has promised to lock up and hang the radicals. Can Dominic save Silas?

    Proper English (England World) – Patricia Merton, noted shot, heads to her friend’s father’s country estate for some shooting. Jimmy’s fiancee is pretty and buxom and happy, but Jimmy’s not. Pat’s going to figure out what’s going on before Jimmy and Fenella end up in a very unhappy marriage.

    Think of England (England World, early 20th century) – Archie Curtis is trying to figure out if a rival arms dealer had sabotaged the weapons provided to his squad. While trying, badly, to sneak around the manor house, he keeps running into effete Daniel da Silva. Other house guests include Pat and Fen from Proper English.

    Band Sinister – Sir Philip Rookwood has a band of friends called the Murder and it’s known as a hellfire club. They’re visiting his country estate when a neighboring girl, Amanda, takes a tumble and breaks her leg. She ends up being patched up by Rookwood’s friend who’s a doctor. Amanda’s sister, Guy, rushes over to protect her, only to find that he can hardly take his eyes off of Sir Philip…Full of neighborhood scandal, terrifying aunts, and disapproving neighbors.

    Wanted, A Gentleman – Martin St. Vincent is a well-to-do merchant in London. The young daughter of a family has been corresponding with an unsuitable gentleman via a lonely hearts newsletter. St. Vincent tracks down the publisher, Theodore Swann. When they realize that the girl is eloping to Gretna Green, they take off after her.

    Unfit to Print – Vikram is a lawyer in London who tries to help the Anglo-Indian and Indian communities. Tasked to find a young man who’s disappeared into the sordid side of London, Vik finds an old friend from school, Gil Lawless, now a bookseller.

    Hither, Page – Cat Sebastian – Post World War. A shell-shocked doctor in a tiny English village runs into a spy that he patched up once in France. The spy/secret agent, Leo has been sent there to try to uncover profiteering by the local lord. A locked room mystery happens. A cozy mystery with lots of interesting characters. Supposedly a sequel is due this year.

    An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the City 2) – Nathaniel Roy is a journalist interested in debunking spiritualists. He sets his sights on Justin Lazarus, the Seer of London. Still unhappy after the death of his lover 5 years prior, Nathaniel’s amazed to find how attractive he finds the amoral Justin. Justin has information about the unknown heirs to the Talleyfer (this is the name that Clem uses from An Unseen Attraction but there’s a different spelling for the noble family) that were introduced in the first book).

    An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the City 3) – Mark Braglewicz, enquiry agent, tracks down the Talleyfer heirs. The son, Pen (Repentance), and his sister, Greta (Regret), are trapeze artists in a London theatre. Pen, in particular, is really not ready to be a noble heir. It would likely kill him. The trouble is, if Pen doesn’t take up his position, Mark’s friends and Pen and Greta are all in danger. I like this series and the following one quite a bit. Pen is genderfluid (I hope I have that right) and attracted to men).

    Gilded Cage (Lilywhite Boys 2) – Sukey, now Susan, from An Unnatural Vice has grown up and is now a private investigator with the firm Roy and Lazarus. As a teenager, she was friends with yound, wild, nobleman. They ended up breaking each other’s hearts and he went away for 17 years. Now, he’s back as a jewel thief. Susan ran into him in Any Old Diamonds, where it was obvious she had not forgiven him. However, framed for a horrific double murder, Templeton Lane turns to Susan as the only person who might save him. A nice mystery and I like Susan a lot!

    The Rat-Catcher’s Daughter (Lilywhite Boys 2.5) – The story of the Lilywhite Boys’ fence, Stan Kamarzyn and his crush, Miss Christiana. I don’t know the correct terminology. Miss Christiana is as much trans as she can be for the time. Both she and Stan are asexual, at least beyond cuddling.

    Any Old Diamonds (Lilywhite Boys 1) – Yes, I read this after Gilded Cage. Jerry Crozier and Templeton Lane are hired by Alec (Lord Alexander) to rob Alec’s father, the Duke of Ilvar. The Duke remarried when his children were still young, and completely focused on his new wife. The children have been made to scratch for their livings. One of the children has died due to the neglect and Alec wants revenge. This one surprised me in the plot. I liked it a lot.

    Another Society of Gentleman entry (#1), A Fashionable Indulgence. Harry Vane is the son of Radicals. He’s actually heir to a fortune, so to make his grandfather happy, the nonpareil Julius Norreys take on the task of turning this Cit into someone who can navigate the ton. Julius has been desperately unhappy since Waterloo but finds himself attracted to the happy Harry. Add in a cousin Harry’s supposed to marry to please the old man, and who’s giving mixed signals, some suspicious deaths, and it’s another excellent entry.

    Jordan L. Hawk, Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin #1). Whyborne is a linguist working at a museum in a town famous in the past for witch hunts. Griffin is an ex-Pinkerton agent looking for someone to translate a journal written in code for his current job. Both have lost people important to them in the past. Whyborne turns out to be integral to solving the mysteries swirling around the town of Widdershins. I liked it fine but so far not enough to read book 2.

    Terry Moore, Five Years #10, a series uniting his earlier comic book series: Strangers in Paradise, Echo, Rachel Rising, and Motor Girl. The element discovered in Echo united with some material written by Lilith will destroy the earth. The people from the earlier series unite to stop its development. They estimate that they have 5 years. I’ve only read SiP and Echo and didn’t have much trouble following this, but I think at least part of SiP should be read first.

    For a cross-country trip which ended up being about 8 hours longer than planned, 3rd read of Martha Wells’s Network Effect (best of month).

    Spectred Isle (Green Man #1, sequel not out yet). Saul Lazenby is an archaeologist working for a man researching arcane places and events. He was disgraced in the war and otherwise unemployable. While investigating a place for his employer, a tree catches fire and he meets a man called Glyde. Glyde turns out to work for a government agency that also keeps track of magical occurrences and both men can’t figure out way they keep running into each other.

    The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. The true stories behind some of the magical doings of Feximal and his friend and chronicler, Robert Caldwell. So somewhat reminiscent of Holmes and Watson, but Feximal isn’t a genius, but he can settle ghosts. Caldwell is very observant and often helps figure out the story behind why a ghost is haunting a location. Some of the stories in this book have been published separately.

  14. Jillian Williams /

    My favorite book was the 5th wave by Rick Yancey. It wasn’t what I was expecting and it made me feel things. Even though the plot was pretty typical of an alien sci-fi and I will not be reading the sequel, I really enjoyed the way it tugged at my emotions.

  15. The best book I read last month will likely be the best book I’ll read all year: Alix Harrow’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES. Taking place in 1893 New Salem, it’s about three sisters who join the suffragette movement to help spread their witching powers. I posted a review on today and gave it a perfect score. Between this and last year’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, plus her short stories and everything in between, Harrow’s any of her output is a can’t-miss for me.

  16. Jillian Williams /

    My favorite book was the Unhappening of Genesis Lee by Shalee McArthur. It really reflected what is happening in the world right now with it’s themes of racism and rioting conflicts. However, I just found this book to be really different and interesting.

  17. Sethia /

    I’ve been rereading the Harrt Potter books to the kids (always good!). I also read books #4 and #5 in the Expanse series, I’m really loving these and am finding them really hard to put down!

  18. Eddie Davis, 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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