Posted at April 26, 2021
To be honest, I haven’t read a lot since my post last year. After the pandemic went global, I had a hard time reading. I mostly wanted comfort food and escapism.
Azure Bonds, by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb
The first of three D&D novels I read last year. I’m a fan of the Let’s Read TSR! blog, and this particular book was highly rated.
And I concur! It was a fun read. My only complaint was that I lack some of the D&D knowledge it expected going in. The protagonist was good, the plot twisty, and as someone who tends towards bards in roleplaying games, there were some good bardic elements to the story.
Wyvern’s Spur, by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb
The second of the three. According to the review, it’s a “Jeeves and Wooster” pastiche. I can’t comment to that, but I can say it’s entertaining.
It’s about a bit character from Azure Bonds. He’s returned home changed from his adventures, and there’s a tension through the entire book about people expecting him to be more foppish and less capable than he actually is. At the same time, he makes endless bad decisions. It’s a more grounded story than Azure Bonds, being mostly about family conflicts. I appreciated it.
The Crypt of the Shadowking, by Mark Anthony
The third of the three. This was my fault. The review says it’s mostly mediocre, but the Scouring of the Shire is probably my favourite part of Lord of the Rings, and the comparison to it got me excited. I enjoyed it by the end, but there was nothing in there I could point to and say, “This is why you should read this book.”
Cryptonomicom, by Neal Stephenson
I remember the turn of the millenium, when technolibertarianism was going to solve everything. It didn’t turn out that way. Some of the politics of this book look a little dodgy now, but it’s still a great read. This is a book about Things, including wartime atrocities and genocide, and it goes to fascinating places.
This was my first serious book during the pandemic. I cheated — I read this book multiple times back in my 20s. Rereading it over a decade later was a strange experience.
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, by M. C. Beaton
And then I read a cosy mystery in the English countryside. I liked it. So did the guys at the podcast I Don’t Even Own a Television, who did a whole episode on it. It’s light and entertaining. Thanks a mil for the rec.
The Family Trade, by Charles Stross
When I recommend The Good Place to people, I tell them that every time you think the show’s settled into some sort of groove, it sets off an unexpected bomb that sends the story in a new direction. That also describes this book.
Miriam Beckstein, reporter, receives a mysterious locket from her long-dead mother, and discovers she has the ability to shift into a parallel dimension. It only gets more complicated from there.
"The Family Trade", by Charles Stross... slayed.— nigelsezyarr (@thaeus) December 30, 2020
I enjoyed it, but the entire book is set-up for the series. I would've liked more story payoff in the book itself.
I picked up the second book from the series, The Hidden Family, but I didn’t finish it. I had a hard time reading this winter. I should request it from the library again.
The Truth, by Terry Pratchett
Much like Cryptonomicon, this was a cheat. This was one of my favourite Discworld novels. After listening to the recent Pratchat episode, I decided to give it a read in the hopes that it’d get me reading again.
This time, I noticed the writing on class a lot more. It’s baked into the entire book. The protagonist is the estranged son of a noble family, and while he’s trying to make his own way in the world and be a good person, he always has the option of going back to the family mansion.
Anyway. It’s good. Terry Pratchett’s writing is clear and straightforward, but he’s also just a fantastic writer. The plot for this one is honestly pretty weak, but the story of the Disc’s first newspaper is great. I can’t believe I didn’t pull this one off the shelf when “fake news” became a buzzword a few years ago.