A Year of Books 2021: Rounding Out a Great Year

There are yet more books that I read this year! This rounds out all the novels I read. Some were very good! A few were decent. Thankfully, I didn’t read any bad books this year! Miracles happen!

(And in different news, I’m doing some renovations on the website. If things look different, no, it’s not another Mandela effect you need to worry about. You’ve not slipped into an alternate reality this time. It really was different before.)

Without further ado…

Blood of Tyrants
by Naomi Novik

Captain William Laurence finds himself in Japan. He doesn’t know why. He doesn’t even remember his beloved dragon, Temeraire. Alone in a land that is suspicious at best of any Englishman, Laurence must find his way home.

Every year I read another Temeraire novel. This is the eighth. That means next year I’ll finally read the ninth and final installment.

But what of this one?

Well, it’s an amnesia story. When I read the beginning of the plot, I groaned. Really? We’re going to use that hackneyed plot device?

But I have to say, it worked surprisingly well. Novik used the amnesia to highlight how much Laurence has grown through this series. Plot and character-wise, this one’s another winner. I particularly enjoyed the opening chapters set in Japan.

There’s only one complaint I have about this series: Oh, the chapters are so long. Sigh. Keep writing, Novik, but shorten those chapters up, please!

by A. Lee Martinez

Monster runs a pest control agency. He won’t take care of cockroaches or mice, though. He bags yeti and other things that go bump in the night. He’s overworked. Things seem to be getting worse and worse in town. And his girlfriend, a literal demon from hell, isn’t helping things. What’s a guy supposed to do?

So, I loved the concept of this book, and the overall plot was appropriately silly. That said, it was clearly aimed at people who enjoy “adult” humor a bit more than I do. I guess I’m still vanilla when it comes to things like that; give me some zany comedy and I’m happy.

That said, I didn’t feel like I wasted my time with this one. If you like urban fantasy with some good biting humor, take a look.

This is the printing I have. Sorry; it’s the only picture I can find of this cover!

Kothar—Barbarian Swordsman
by Gardner F. Fox

Kothar! He’s got an enchanted sword! He’s a barbarian from before recorded time! He has mighty thews, and boy is he clever! And he’s not Conan at all! So don’t call him that!

So, I’ve read some of the original Conan the Barbarian stories, and they’re pretty much what I’d expect. Barbarian stories with some clever tellings and harrowing adventures. When I saw the cover of this book, I could tell it was being marketed pretty much as a rip-off. And I was right. If you’re looking for some relatively generic but well-done barbarian stories, you’ll get them here.

But what caught my eye was the author: Gardner Fox. This is the man who created the modern DC comics universe. He assembled the first Justice League, and had been writing comics for decades before that. I never knew he also wrote prose! Just for that alone, this book was worth it for me!

Arg! I couldn’t find my cover on Amazon. So you get a more recent cover here…

The Sword of the Spirits Trilogy
The Prince in Waiting
Beyond the Burning Lands
The Sword of the Spirits
by John Christopher

The earth split open. It burned. People fled to walled cities for protection. Technology was to blame, and so it was outlawed. Luke grows up the second-born son of a prince. He has no place in this world. That is, until the Seers tell Luke he has a destiny. The Spirits have chosen him for a dangerous task.

The printing of these books I own has emblazoned on the top of the front cover, “By the author of the Tripods Trilogy.” You know what? It worked. That’s the only reason I picked these up. Published in 1970, these are the precursors to modern YA novels. It’s good science fiction focusing on a coming-of-age story. Unlike most modern YA, though, it doesn’t have a happy ending at all. I really did enjoy the trilogy, though. Lots of great twists and turns, and unlike most trilogies, I’d say the second installment was the strongest!

Once AGAIN I couldn’t find my edition on Amazon. AMAZON, WHY YOU FAIL ME?!

Early Autumn
by Robert B. Parker

Private eye Spenser’s hired to kidnap a boy from his father so his mother can have him back. After the successful kidnapping, though Spenser figures that maybe the boy’s not better off with either of his parents. But what then?

Last year I picked up and enjoyed a random Spenser novel by Robert Parker. When I saw this for sale at my local library, I grabbed it. I’m glad I did. This was a totally different story compared to the last, but Spenser was still a delight to read, and Hawke, a secondary lead of the series, is just as great. (It helps if you saw the old series or imagine Avery Brooks playing Hawke, as he did on the show.)

Anyway, this was fun. I’ve since bought more Spenser books. I’ll be reading them.

by Conor Kostick

Penelope is the last human. She lives in a virtual world to keep herself sane. Well, maybe she does, anyway. The people of that world don’t have free will, except for one person who wants her to help him conquer other realms. What Penelope doesn’t know is that these other realms are populated by real people like her. Will she finally learn what it is to not be alone?

This is the third volume of the Epic trilogy. Each volume has taken a look at how virtual gaming will affect those who colonize other worlds, and each has examined different aspects of what that might look like. I enjoyed each book, but this one was the weakest. I’m glad it closes things off creatively, but man, that first book was so much stronger.

The Best Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ Gunslinger in the Whole Damned Galaxy
by Mike Resnick

Billybuck Dancer is the best gunslinger in the universe. He’ll challenge anyone, and win every time. That makes him a huge draw for Thaddeus Flint’s interstellar carnival. But Billybuck just isn’t interested anymore. There’s no danger to the act. He knows he’s the best. Thaddeus might not like what happens next…

When I saw the title of this book, I couldn’t resist it. This is book four in a four-book series. I haven’t read any of the other books. I’m sure I missed some continuing subplots, but this volume stands on its own well. I sped through its pages, and I’m keeping my eyes open for the other books now. Seriously, a western-science fiction-carnival mashup? The creativity alone is worth your dollar and your time!

Published by Jon

Jon lives in Kentucky with his wife and an insanity of children. (A group of children is called an insanity. Trust me.)

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