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

FanLit Readers' Favorites!It’s the first Thursday of the month. Time to report!

What is the best book you read in October 2021 and why did you love it? It doesn’t have to be a newly published book, or even SFF, or even fiction. 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 with a U.S. mailing address will choose a book from our stacks. If you’re outside the U.S., we’ll send you a $5 Amazon gift card.

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  1. Jacqie Hasan /

    Deeplight by Frances Hardinge was our SF/F book club selection this month, and I loved it. She’s an author that doesn’t get enough attention IMO. It’s a combination of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Frankenstein, and a meditation on fear.

  2. John Smith /

    “Nothing To See Here” by Kevin Wilson. Despite being about some young children with a bad habit of spontaneously erupting into flames, this is basically a conventional literary novel about, I guess, social class and narcissism.

  3. Kevin S. /

    “Same Kind of Different As Me” by Ron Hall

    “Dune” by Frank Herbert.

  4. Paul Connelly /

    Best: Anathem (Neal Stephenson) is set on the earthlike planet Arbre, which is technologically slightly ahead of where we are now, but which has a longer history of advanced civilizations that have had to periodically clamp down on scientists to keep change from being too disruptive. The strategy has been to sequester the scientifically (especially mathematically) gifted in monastic institutions that only interact with the public once a year. Over the centuries the concents (monasteries) have been sacked and the avout (monks) dispersed several times, only to re-establish the system at later dates. Our young hero Erasmas is a fraa (male monk) in the concent of Saunt Edhar, when his mentor discovers something on a telescope photo that gets the plot rolling, but it takes quite a long time to pick up any speed. Then his mentor is thrown out of the concent and Erasmas, sent to a big conference with secular and monastic authorities, takes an unauthorized detour to find him. The pace picks up gradually, but is pretty frenetic by the time we get to a suicide mission against an alien spaceship near the end. So this book requires a lot of patience, and you’ll need to flip to the glossary and back until all the novel words Stephenson invents become familiar. Still, very rewarding if you stick with it.

    Runner-up: Monstress (Vol. 6), from Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, is a veritable family reunion for antiheroine Maika Halfwolf. First she is captured by the Warlord of the Dawn Court of Arcanics (human-animal hybrids), Maika’s aunt, who has come to Ravenna with her wife, Tuya (Maika’s childhood sweetheart and a Baroness of the Dusk Court). Then the Wolf Queen, ruler of the Dawn Court and Maika’s grandmother, appears to try to take Maika into custody. But Maika has the monster Zinn inside her and can effect a standoff–until the Cumaeans attack with a weapon that drives the Wolf Queen and other Arcanics mad. Meanwhile Maika’s evil father, the Lord Doctor of the Blood Court, has appeared in the holy city of Aurum and unmasked the Mother Superior of the Cumaeans as a demon. In this complex narrative, very few characters can be called “good” (mainly Dusk Court warrior Corvin, pirate Seizi, and the little fox girl Kippa). Maika finally pieces together the powerful mask of the Shaman Empress–but then she’s betrayed. Have to wait another year to see what comes next!

    Other books: “Lord Grimdark” Joe Abercrombie finishes his Age of Madness series in fine style with The Wisdom of Crowds. An uprising in Adua reminiscent of the French Revolution leaves the treacherous, cunning, and violent on top and everyone else of note either dead or even more morally compromised than they were at the start (surprise!). An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is the rather ridiculous title of a Curtis Craddock trilogy starter with wacky worldbuilding–whole continents float high in the atmosphere and sail-rigged airships travel between them. And they have societies that roughly seem like early modern Europe (with matching ethnic-sounding names). Also inherited magical abilities and partly mechanical people. Despite all this, it’s a thumping good adventure read, written with great assurance for a debut novel. The Night Sessions (Ken MacLeod) follows detectives in a future Edinburgh trying to solve a series of murders carried out by religious fanatics. But could there be self-aware robots among the fanatics? The ending had some weak aspects but the story was very involving up till then. Galapagos is a satirical tale by Kurt Vonnegut about humans hitting an evolutionary bottleneck that leads us to evolve into something more like seals–without the “big brains” that Vonnegut thinks have caused more problems than they’ve helped us with. Told with Vonnegut’s usual absurdist, low-key humor. Princesses of Darkness and Other Exotica (Jean Lorrain) is a set of fin de siecle symbolist vignettes, fairy tales, allegories and an essay or two. Action is minimal and visual description and atmosphere are primary.

  5. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

  6. Harlem Shuffle for me

  7. Katharine Ott /

    Nothing stood out for October, but narrowing down my 4-star reads to one gave me Clare Dunkle’s “The Hollow Kingdom.” From my review — This was a really fun fantasy novel with goblins, elves, sorcerers, and of course two young girls imprudently roaming the countryside around their English manor. Much of the action follows Kate and Marak, the King of the Goblins, as he has decided she will be his next wife. “The King’s Wife is always a capture. It’s the only prudent way.” — This is the first in a trilogy and I wouldn’t mind reading the other two someday.

  8. I’m a Ray Bradbury fan, so my favorite October book was an October Country book called From the Dust Returned. Unlike Something Wicked This Way Comes or his other more frightening work, this one is more a loving tribute to all things and people “spooky,” ghoulish, dark and different–a sort of Addams Family but more melancholy and written in Bradbury’s characteristically literary style. It was perfect for a Fall read, and I loved it.

    Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark was my other fave for the month–a good horror pick without being too much for my delicate sensibilities.

  9. More R. Cooper (romances) who often has demisexual or aro/ace main characters. Demi = needs an emotional connection first, aro = aromantic, ace = asexual. Others by Romeo Alexander, Eden Finley, May Archer, Briar Prescott, Con Riley. Triggered by the release of a new book in the series, Two-Man Team, I reread the Stick Side series by Amy Aislin about a bunch of hockey players (both college and pro level) and some related books. She’s another author that often has demi characters.

    A YA book making a bit of splash, I read Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas for a book group. Yadriel is a trans boy who is desperate to become a brujo like his father and almost all the other male members of his family. His dad refuses and most of his family is unable to fully accept him. He and his cousin, Maritza, who refuses to become a bruja because they use animal blood, perform the ritual and Yadriel does gain brujo powers. He ends up calling an unexpected ghost, Julian, and they set out to try to find out what happened to Julian and Yadriel’s cousin.

    A new Penric and Desdemona! Knot of Shadows covers another odd magical occurrence in Vilnoc.

    Then a bunch of romances by E.M. Lindsey. Her shtick is disability or trauma so there are characters who are blind/almost blind, Deaf or hard of hearing, amputees, ace, ex-foster kids, abused. Some angst, yes, but usually in the past so the focus is on recovery/moving forward. Interesting perspectives because there’s talk about someone not wanting to be the “superhero” who overcomes his restrictions or the partner who expects to ‘fix’ the problem. All are set in small town Colorado towns.

    Finally, Total Creative Control by Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm. Genre-adjacent romance. Aaron Page is a fan fiction writer who manages to get hired as a personal assistant to a writer/showrunner of a hit SF show. Aaron ends up an uncredited script editor. While on a terrible ‘retreat’ called by a producer who wants to do an American version, Aaron and Lewis start realizing that they get on really well. I’m not fan of employee/manager but this one was fine.

  10. Michael Voss /

    October was a good month. Not just one, but the latest two Penric and Desdemona stories from Lois McMaster Bujold. John Gwynne’s Shadow of the Gods. Clayton W Snyder’s wild and weird The Obsidian Psalm. Jim Butcher’s White Knight, ratcheting up the Dresden tension.

    But the prize this month goes to Joe Abercrombie’s conclusion – at least for now – of his First Law series, The Wisdom of Crowds. 9/10,

  11. Jillian /

    The turn of the key by ruth ware was my favorite of the month. It was amazing, the spooky vibes were impeccable, and the ending caught me so off guard!

  12. I can’t believe I almost forgot to write my submission!

    “The Witch’s Heart” by Genevieve Gornichec is a beautiful rendition of the love story between Loki and Angrboda, who become the parents of those who would bring Ragnarok. As a mother, Angrboda fears the fates of her children and will do all that she can to save them.

    “Summer Sons” by Lee Mandelo is an American Southern Gothic tale about a grad student, Andrew, who’s closest friend, Eddie, commits suicide right before starting the same graduate program as him. As he searches for answers, he can still feel the Eddie’s presence; but, for some reason, it feels like his friend is haunting him. As a former grad student, the rendition of higher education is extremely accurate.

    “The Mask of Mirrors” by M.A. Carrick is one of the most underrated fantasy books of 2021. Ren is a con artist who sets her sights on a noble family so that she can secure her fortune. However, once her “identity” is “acknowledged,” Ren has to maneuver her way through all of the political intrigue and conflicts amongst the nobility. Not to mention, a vigilante is searching the city for the cause surrounding missing children and a new drug that causes hallucinations. Ren is drawn by the vigilante, but she realizes that everything could be connected. The magic system is based on industrial Italian “magic.” And, the ending will leave you excited for “The Liar’s Knot”!

  13. Noneofyourbusiness /

    “Dark Angel: Skin Game” picks up the story of Dark Angel where the TV series left off. Max’s attempts to establish an official safehaven for transgenics in Seattle’s contaminated “Terminal City” district is threatened by a series of murders the police believe to have been committed by a transgenic who skins his victims.

  14. The Distinguished Professor /

    The continuing adventures of Inspector Rebus in “House of Lies”, by Ian Rankin. A discovery of a car deep in the woods relates to an old missing persons case and a forbidden relationship. Also, Rebus tries to give up his vices for the sake of his health.

  15. Lady Morar /

    More “Bach / Busoni: Piano Transcriptions” for me. I keep plugging away at my book.

  16. Michael Voss, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. If your address is outside of the USA, you will get a $5 Amazon gift card.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

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