Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

Discuss SFF books and authors here.
By Elfy
It's the 1st of June here in future land, and we all know what that means. Yes, it's time for the what did you read in <insert month and year here> thread!
Some people read lots, some people don't read that much. This isn't contest, we're just interested in what people have read and what they though of it.
Have at it!
By Elfy
I'll go first. I read 8 books in May, which is slightly down for me this year, but I think overall I'm on track to break the ton again this year.

The Reappearance of Rachel Price by Holly Jackson. This is a teen mystery, which are very popular right now. I really liked Holly Jackson's Good Girl's Guide to Murder series. This didn't hit the same notes for me. It was largely a twist on the accepted thing of that the disappeared believed dead person turns up very much alive. I can't put my finger exactly on why it didn't work for me. It was set in America (the author is English) for no real reason, and I got no sense of place, it could have really been any English speaking country in the western world. I also really didn't like the main character, she got on my nerves.

The Undetectables by Courtney Smyth. Loved this. It's sort of urban fantasy, but it's set in a town in England where magic works. The Undetectables of the title are a detective group comprised of 3 best friends (not actually of a magic race, but have access to magic and magical friends) and a ghost. It was just huge fun and I connected in one way or another with the main characters. The ending hinted quite strongly at a sequel, so I hope that happens, because this could be a highly enjoyable series.

The Book of NIght by Holly Black. I haven't read a lot of Holly Black, but I did love her Modern Faerie Tales series, and Lejays has read most of her books. The Book of Night is her first for adults book, and it is fairly dark (so is her teen stuff, though). The main character is aware of and can deal with shadows. Shadow magic is a key part of the story. I got strong Miriam Black vibes from it, and as I loved that series that will always be a winner for me. I don't know if Black will keep doing books for an older audience, but I hope she does, because this was excellent.

Return of the Jedi from a Certain Point of View the final book of short stories based around different perspectives from the 3 original Star Wars films. It was a good idea, but for me the books ran out of steam after A New Hope. There were some really good authors in this, but most of the things they chose to view, or were possibly told to focus on by Disney, didn't really grab my interest.

The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo. This was a departure for Bardugo for me. Set in Spain during the Inquisition, it follows a character who has a real problem, she can do magic and she's also Jewish, and has to keep both of these things hidden. Great idea, but it didn't really go anywhere. I haven't read a lot of Bardugo, but I did like her two adult urban fantasies, however from what I've seen and heard others say, she can be a bit hit and miss. I liked the other two Ninth House and Hell Bent, but this was a miss for me.

Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro. What did I just read? Wow! This was bizarre, but good bizarre. A woman who lives two lives in different time lines. In one the world ends in a fiery nuclear apocalypse, and the other is ours. In our time she is the author of a popular comic where her main character (loosely based on her) lives in the other time line. It actually reads a bit like a graphic novel. Half the time you're wondering what's real and what's not and how reliable is the narrator. Really good.

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros. I can't say much about this really that hasn't been said elsewhere. It's a sequel to Fourth Wing and if you liked that you will like this. The books do definitely have their flaws, but they also have the ability to make the readers connect with the characters and keep turning the pages to see what happens next. They're big fat doorstoppers of books, but I read them really quickly, because of that very reason, just one more page, just one more chapter. Of course the bloody thing ended on a cliff, but book 3 is due out in January. It also ticked off my Romantasy square in book bingo.

Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman. The premise of this sounded like fun. A take on The Scarlet Pimpernel with vampires. It was all buckle and no swash. The main character Eleanor; a seamstress working for an aristocratic English vampire, is recruited by a group of counter revolutionaries to use her superficial resemblance to Marie Antionette to rescue the queen and her family from the guillotine. She spends most of her time wandering about France pondering on the pros and cons of whether the Revolution is a good thing or not and really doesn't reach a firm decision. The last 30 pages ramp up the action a bit, but by then I was largely over it.
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By cupiscent
Apparently I only read three books in May, which didn't seem right until I remembered that I also had three DNFings in there.
  • System Collapse by Martha Wells - latest Murderbot, excellent as ever; I felt it really backed up and deepened Network Effect
  • Witch King also by Martha Wells - absolutely loved this one, like the most thoughtful and thought-provoking sword-and-sorcery, really excellent
  • Daughter of Redwinter by Ed Mcdonald - another one I very much enjoyed, a gritty world with a fascinating main character
My DNFs were: The Bladed Faith by David Dalglish (interesting story; bounced off the style); The Ivory Key Akshaya Raman (fascinating world, story too frenetic to properly grab me); King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (too much gilding on characters I didn't care about, not enough story).

And in non-fic this month I finally finished Catherine the Great by Robert Massie (which honestly didn't need to be that long but could conversely have used more analysis and less reportage) and also read Refuse to be Done by Matt Bell, a really solid writing craft book about the skills of rewriting and revision.
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By DrNefario
Only three in May for me, too, due to one of them being over 800 pages:

Decision at Thunder Rift (Gray Death Legion #1) - William H Keith - This is the first book in the fictional universe of the Battletech tabletop wargame. It's not amazing, but I bought 125 of them so I'm going to have to read more. (It was OK. It will fill a niche when I'm in the mood for some miliary SF.)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton - Twisty body-hopping timeloop murder mystery. Enjoyable, with lots of clever ideas, but felt a bit long.

The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time #12) - Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson - Finally picking up the Sanderson-penned books about 18 years after I read the last Jordan book. I was a bit lost at first, but it came back to me as I read. It felt good to be back in that world.
By Peat
Slowed right down

Winds of Fury by Mercedes Lackey - Decent fast read. Probably won't revisit the series much again.

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett - Astonishingly powerful.

Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani - Decent fast read. In present tense so won't stick with it.

The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien - Very uneven but what is good in this is so bloody amazing that pretty much all is forgiven. The high tragedy of the Noldor is just so damn good.

Asterix and the Magic Carpet - Fun wee romp when I needed to read a palate cleansers

Asterix and the Black Gold - Ditto
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By DaveBates
I did my usual two.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I believe this was a collection of short stories, so the structure is a bit wonky with every chapter following different people. Written in 1950, this was fun if only because of the imagination of the sort of planet Mars would be, which non-surprisingly was nothing of the sort. Ah, the dreams people once had of space.
It's also funny in how the chapters are all dated, with dates ranging from 1998-2050. 50 years into the future is for sci-fi what 1000 years is to fantasy, it feels.
As a story though, it was interesting, if only because it paralleled how we'd treat entering a new frontier in Mars with how the colonisers did America back in the the 16th Century. Kind of morbid, but considering what still goes on today, not entirely unbelievable either.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. This has been on my read list for a few years, and I've got the last chapter and epilogue still to go, but I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this, which is refreshing, because I usually don't get on with the more renowned fantasy stories. It is a bit wordy in places, but the world and magic system is well laid out, and the characters thoroughly likeable, so I'm glad I gave this a shot.
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By ScarletBea
After the very small April, in May I finished more books

* A day of fallen night, by Samantha Shannon - amazing characters in this prequel, but the plot could have used some trimming
* The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi, by Shannon Chakraborty - I really enjoyed this one
* Outcast of Redwall, by Brian Jacques - I liked the "goodies" part of the story, the "baddies" bored me a bit

* This family, by Kate Sawyer - family story/drama

* The maps we carry, by Rose Cartwright - very interesting book about a different approach to mental health treatment
By Carter
Thanks @ScarletBea. I had noticed that my post had fallen foul of the issues. So, here I go again.

A little late, but here is my list for the month:

A Botanical Daughter by Noah Medlock - I actually read this in April but forgot to include it in my list. This is a found family, gothic, cosy, floral horror of a book. It reads really well but I couldn't shake the feeling that it is almost a victim of its own ambition. It hits the right notes across its main themes but it never really goes into sufficient depth on any of them for me. That being said, this is definitely an author I'll be keeping an eye on.

Red Side Story by Jasper Fforde - I agree with @ScarletBea's comments from last month on this one. It's still a really good book and filled with Fforde's distinctive style that follows on from the dystopian weirdness that is Shades of Grey. But it does go in an unexpected direction that does not sit entirely well with me. I recently expanded on my Fforde collection, so I'm expecting to keep adding them to my monthly reads for a while to come.

The Unbroken by C L Clark - I had been debating starting this series for a while but never quite took the plunge. I'm definitely glad I did. There were times where I felt some of the characters' actions and reactions did not quite match with what I would have expected based on what had come before and what I anticipated from various details, but how it moved through the central themes worked well for me. There were a few areas were it felt a little thin even then, but it takes an interesting angle on colonised peoples. I quickly acquired the next in the series too.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers - I could not stay away from the series and this was a really good follow up to the previous book. It takes a different angle and looks at some different themes using a mostly different cast of characters and is a fascinating deeper delve into Chambers' universe. I did still feel as I could see the seams at times, and parts felt a little too close to info-dumping for my taste, but that takes nothing away from the whole.

Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman et al - continuing my journey through the graphic novels, this gripped from start to finish. It felt like it was going in a particular direction at times but consistently threw curve balls at me that kept the pages turning. I'm mostly rationing these out so I don't get through them all too quickly the first time around but it's increasingly difficult to stick to that!
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By cupiscent
Carter wrote: June 11th, 2024, 19:58 The Unbroken by C L Clark - I had been debating starting this series for a while but never quite took the plunge. I'm definitely glad I did. There were times where I felt some of the characters' actions and reactions did not quite match with what I would have expected based on what had come before and what I anticipated from various details, but how it moved through the central themes worked well for me. There were a few areas were it felt a little thin even then, but it takes an interesting angle on colonised peoples. I quickly acquired the next in the series too.
I feel like Clark levels up hard for book two on this one. I had similar feelings on the first one - mostly good, an interesting angle, but felt a little thin or rushed in places, I think partly because it's doing so much - but the second one was so strong. I'm very much looking forward to the third!