What 100lbs of aluminum looks like

So I spent a month at a job I hated. Emptying trash downtown. But the pay was good and, well, I needed the money. But I did eventually quit—because I hated the work.

My job for this month was to empty the 74 trash cans spread throughout downtown whenever they needed it. 4-5 days a week, 4-6 hours a day. It being me, I also picked the recyclables out of the trash and collected them for later. In the 20 days that I was solo, I collected 117 pounds of aluminum, 86 pounds of plastic, 75 pounds of cardboard, and some tin and miscellaneous others. Altogether it added up to just over 300lbs of recycling. More than 7x as much as I got from the actual recycling bins.

As the price of everything has risen lately, the price of aluminum has dropped. Because of course it has.

July 2022

After the 8 ARCs that I got approved for in June, we’re down to just 4 for July—which is great as I’ve only finished 5 of the ones from last month. So hopefully I’ll have some time to catch up on them, and maybe sprinkle in another few from my TBR that I’ve been waiting to read.

July is a bit of a busy month for me non-blog-wise. Miss the first week to a wedding (COVID permitting), then I’ve a backpacking trip scheduled mid-month, and some other wilderness day trips here and there (smoke and fire and weather permitting). So I might not be around too much. While I’ll try to schedule up a few reviews, just keep in mind that the month may be a bit light compared to the year thus far.

Additionally, I’m not sure what’s coming music-wise for July, so I’ll probably skip that entire section this time around. But maybe I’ll throw in a TBR one or something to cap it off.

And you lot… July plans? Vacation, work, camping, weddings? I hear COVID is up in a lot of places, including Montana (although you wouldn’t know it from the way people are acting here).

ARCs

Upgrade – by Blake Crouch (7/12)

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“You are the next step in human evolution.”

At first, Logan Ramsay isn’t sure if anything’s different. He just feels a little . . . sharper. Better able to concentrate. Better at multitasking. Reading a bit faster, memorizing better, needing less sleep.

But before long, he can’t deny it: Something’s happening to his brain. To his body. He’s starting to see the world, and those around him—even those he loves most—in whole new ways.

The truth is, Logan’s genome has been hacked. And there’s a reason he’s been targeted for this upgrade. A reason that goes back decades to the darkest part of his past, and a horrific family legacy.

Worse still, what’s happening to him is just the first step in a much larger plan, one that will inflict the same changes on humanity at large—at a terrifying cost.

Because of his new abilities, Logan’s the one person in the world capable of stopping what’s been set in motion. But to have a chance at winning this war, he’ll have to become something other than himself. Maybe even something other than human.

And even as he’s fighting, he can’t help wondering: what if humanity’s only hope for a future really does lie in engineering our own evolution?

Intimate in scale yet epic in scope, Upgrade is an intricately plotted, lightning-fast tale that charts one man’s thrilling transformation, even as it asks us to ponder the limits of our humanity—and our boundless potential.

Ymir – by Rich Larson (7/12)

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Yorick never wanted to see his homeworld again. He left Ymir two decades ago, with half his face blown off and no love lost for the place. But when his employer’s mines are threatened by a vicious alien machine, Yorick is shipped back home to hunt it.

All he wants is to do his job and get out. Instead, Yorick is pulled into a revolution brewing beneath Ymir’s frozen surface, led by the very last person he wanted to see again — the brother who sent him off in pieces twenty years ago.

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy – by Becky Chambers (7/12)

Monk & Robot #2

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After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?

The Half Life of Valery K – by Natasha Pulley (7/26)

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In 1963, in a Siberian gulag, former nuclear specialist Valery Kolkhanov has mastered what it takes to survive: the right connections to the guards for access to food and cigarettes, the right pair of warm boots to avoid frostbite, and the right attitude toward the small pleasures of life so he won’t go insane. But on one ordinary day, all that changes: Valery’s university mentor steps in and sweeps Valery from the frozen prison camp to a mysterious unnamed town that houses a set of nuclear reactors and is surrounded by a forest so damaged it looks like the trees have rusted from within.

In City 40, Valery is Dr. Kolkhanov once more, and he’s expected to serve out his prison term studying the effect of radiation on local animals. But as Valery begins his work, he is struck by the questions his research raises: why is there so much radiation in this area? What, exactly, is being hidden from the thousands who live in the town? And if he keeps looking for answers, will he live to serve out his sentence?

Based on real events in a surreal Soviet city, and told with bestselling author Natasha Pulley’s inimitable style, The Rust Country is a sweeping new adventure for readers of Stuart Turton and Sarah Gailey.

Other Releases

The Law – by Jim Butcher (7/05)

Dresden Files #17.5

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Set in the months following the apocalyptic events of Battle Ground, the seventeenth novel in the worldwide bestselling Dresden Files, this powerful new novella by Jim Butcher finds wizard and Winter Knight Harry Dresden mourning incalculable losses. 

The Law, though, in no way recounts the quiet period of reflection that Harry needs, no matter how much he deserves such. Taking on what at first seems to be a much smaller case than any he’s worked in years, the world’s only consulting wizard soon finds himself facing enemies far more powerful than the “invincibly stupid” pimp his client is meeting in court. And not the Unseelie Court or any of the other supernatural governing bodies Harry is used to dealing with, but a “real life” court of law in magic-wrecked Chicago.

The pimp, it turns out, is a minion of an old enemy and erstwhile ally of Harry’s and is thus under potent magical protection. Through a series of literally explosive events, Harry must depend on the cooperation and help of friends, enemies, queens, demigods, and even apparently everyday denizens of Chicago, such as one lawyer who may be more than he seems, and another who is definitely more than he seems.

Used to taking worldly and supernatural laws into his own hands, in this novella Harry’s potent abilities may not prove to be enough to right a simple wrong. Instead, he must depend on his canniness, his wits, and his friends if he wants to see justice done.

The Law is the latest entry in Jim Butcher’s Hugo-nominated Dresden Files, which have been thrilling readers for over twenty years. The series of novels and other novellas describe a secret world behind our own, one that threatens reality at every turn, but which at every turn finds a staunch defender: Harry Dresden.

The Last Storm – by Tim Lebbon (7/05)

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Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

Currently Reading

Just the one book at the moment, though I’m sure to add another shortly. I’m leaning towards the Half Life of Valery K, but haven’t decided yet. Loved the Pariah; Martyr’s good so far, but I’m not that far in. Many thanks to the wonderful people over at Orbit for sending over a physical ARC.

TBR

If you’re a longtime follower you’ll know that I used to do a TBR update ever month, but I scrapped it because I was feeling the stress of fulfilling some quota I’d set and reading’s supposed to be fun. So (at present) I’m not thinking of reviving this. These are just a few books that are already out (and have been for a little) that I’m excited to try. Please do let me know if you’ve read any of these and how you might’ve liked them (other than RoW—I know it’s good and I know I need to read it now) (seriously, I know). Thank you!

Life

Bought some new games recently that I’ll recap here, as my new job (and also old job—yes, I quit, mostly because I hated it with a passion) (no, not that one. I mean I quit the new one that I just got last month. Still have the older one) has been sapping all my energy.

Okay so, question. I have 100 pounds of aluminum cans. 100+, I guess. Picked them out of the trash over the month or so I had this job. I really want to gather them all and take a photo, because I’m never going to have that many at once ever again. But they’re already bagged, and I’m not sure I want to unbag them just to have to rebag them again. What do you think—picture or no picture?

Gaming

Not a whole lot of gaming recently. As I’ve mentioned, I just haven’t had the energy. But I picked up a few new games that I need to try out, so I’ll just list some off.

I’ve actually played Firewatch before—right up til they updated some bug fixes and it crashed my computer. But now I have it on console, so I’m hopeful to continue. I’ve heard a bit about it since, so I’m tempering my anticipation, but I’m still hoping for a decent story with good indie graphics.

I actually have been waiting for this one for a while, but ummm kinda forgot—until Caitlin over at Realms of My Mind reminded me to check it out. Best part about forgetting I guess is that I was able to get it on sale!

In addition to these, Wanderlost is coming! I backed the Kickstarter last year and I’m super excited for this one—hopefully it drops soon!

Daughter of Redwinter – by Ed McDonald (Review)

Redwinter Chronicles #1

Fantasy, Epic

Tor; June 28, 2022 (US)
Gollancz; June 30, 2022 (UK)

345 pages (ebook)

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10 / 10 ✪

I was kindly granted an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Orion & NetGalley for the eARC! All opinions are my own.


Those who see the dead soon join them.

Seventeen year-old Raine knows what she wants out of life, and has it. A man that loves her, a life where she’s respected, a group she’s protected in so much that she almost feels loved. The only problem is that her new family is on the run and holed up in a decaying monastery—which has started widening the cracks in her perfect life.

Maybe her love isn’t so perfect. Braithe is great, but at twice her age he should know better. He yells and belittles and raises his hand to her far too often, to the point that Raine is starting to feel like nothing but a bedwarmer. Her perfect family is less than perfect as well. The sisters preach about the colors within, and their followers eat it up. But Raine isn’t a believer. In fact, she’s never felt like one of them less.

But her die is cast and her lot chosen. She’s with them to the death—especially since death is coming for them all.

In the form of a lost apprentice, hunted by her Draoihn brethren. One that Raine helps, and who repays her by trying to summon an ancient evil unto the world.

An evil Raine helps defeat, but only just. After which she is whisked off to Redwinter by the Draoihn pair, as a witness to the foiled end of the world plot. But after being spared certain death, Raine is now confronted by a probable and much worse end. For if they knew her secret—her ability to see and commune with the dead—these warrior mages would kill her in a much more spectacular and painful manner.

As she lingers in Redwinter, Raine finds more than she ever could’ve hoped, but far less than she might have dreamt of: a life, albeit not one she expected; friends, though they might turn on her if they ever found out her secret; power, though it’s temperamental and impossible to control; and a plot, one she’s got to get under control before it burns her new home down around her.

I began to have a life. It was not a life I had wanted, but it was the one I was living, and one cannot always swim against the tide.

Earlier this month I read a review from Rebecca over at Powder & Page, which proclaimed this as a potential book of the year candidate. Now, I thoroughly adored McDonald’s last series and was ecstatic to hear her praise. And even more excited, as the book did not disappoint.


Friendship is easy to claim and dangerous to test.

I thought I had this pegged as soon as we prevented the ancient evil from releasing itself on the world. I was wrong.

This was not a “teen discovers powers”, “teen goes to magic school”, “enter hijinx and tomfoolery and maybe the end of the world”, like I expected. Sure, it has many of those characteristics—so many that it really looks like it’s going to follow the same pattern. And then the plot takes a left turn. Even further on, when I thought we’d fallen back into the original pattern—it takes another abrupt turn. I’m not going to spoil either of these, but they’re as surprising as they are entertaining, and—better yet—they work really well. The twists may not be world-changing, but they do just enough to change the story while keeping the pace and flow intact.

Raine is an excellent character. She’s young and foolish. She’s clever and witty. She’s pessimistic but hopeful. She has darkness within her, but light as well. She’s… human. Well designed, well portrayed, well written. She’s by far the strongest character, though the others are well written as well. Often profoundly so. Ovitus was among one of my favorite characters just for his sheer complexity. He’s not a particularly… charming character, though he does have something about him that makes him appealing. He’s just so interesting—especially in how he interacts with the world, the other characters, Raine herself—that he’s a fascinating character to read. Raine was by far my favorite, though a few of the others grew on me over the story’s course.

What else do I really have to say about this? Well, not too much as it turns out. I could rave about how well everything is done or about how much I loved every bit of it, but sadly I don’t think this would be enough. The only thing I can really do is tell you to read it, and recommend it whole-heartedly.

TL;DR

Not much to say here, except that Daughter of Redwinter continues Ed McDonald’s strong course of written works. I won’t even bore you by recapping the details. Everything was strong, in my opinion. A great world, great characters, story, blah blah blah. This is (very, very likely) my book of 2022 thus far. Go read it.

Our Crooked Hearts – by Melissa Albert (Review)

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Fantasy, Paranormal, Witches

Flatiron Books; June 28, 2022

345 pages (ebook)

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9.25 / 10 ✪

I was kindly granted an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Flatiron Books & NetGalley for the eARC! All opinions are my own.

The Suburbs – RIGHT NOW:

Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a grounding, and a break-up. But there’s also a mystery to it all. The mystery of what happened that night; who that girl in the middle of the road was; why she was naked; and how she knew Ivy’s name. To find the answers, Ivy must pick apart everything that she thinks she knows about herself, her life—and her mother.

The City – BACK THEN:

Dana has always been perceptive, if not creative. But then she had to grow up quick. Didn’t have time for what-ifs, childhood, or fantasies of monsters and magic. Well… maybe there was time for a little magic.

Because Dana has always known she’s had a little bit of magic within her. She knew it from the time she was born, but really only came into it with the help of her best friend, Fiona. The two were inseparable from the moment they first met, from what their mutual gifts awakened in one another. When Dana meets Marion, for a moment she thinks she’s found another kindred soul, another piece of herself. But that moment does not last long. And while she discovers that the magic she’s always known she had can be so much more when she’s among other practitioners, witches, friends—she also learns the cost of betrayal and greed. It is a price she may have to pay in blood.

Or rabbits.

It might’ve begun with Dana, but this story is years in the telling. By the time Ivy comes into the picture the story has lulled, but soon it flares strongly to life once more. Both will just have to hope that the secrets at the heart of this shared story won’t tear their family apart, or their lives along with it.

So. Magic. It is the loneliest thing in the world.

It’s going to be hard for me to put into words just how much I enjoyed Our Crooked Hearts. I pretty much devoured this one, cover to cover, sleep be damned. The creepy, tense thriller that comes from next to nothing. The dark undercurrent of the story to start that grows and grows until the darkness begins to bleed into every part of the tale. The mystery of both mother and daughter—one told in the past, one in the present; one trying to solve this riddle, the other very much attempting to keep it hidden; a naked girl, a coven of witches, a dark secret. The shared story, told in two parts, each one teasing their own secrets out one piece at a time.

It was… oh so satisfying!

While the story itself is no slouch—nothing that’s been overdone or is too long or confusing or convoluted—the characters of Dana and Ivy are definitely the reason to read this. Or, I guess, their shared story is. It’s this link between the past and the present—that so many stories try, to only marginal success—that makes Our Crooked Hearts the amazing tale that it is. Mostly alternating chapters—one in the past, one in the present—up until everything starts going a bit pear-shaped. Both stories are exciting, mysterious and tense, highly interesting and entertaining, but it’s the way they play on each other that makes it so much better. The way the characters interact between timelines, where their problems and personalities conflict or overlap. The way they play off one another—something you can only really find in stories with two main protagonists (not that this only has the TWO, necessarily).

So, you see, it is the strength of the story after all!

Well, that and its characters.

The world is one very much like our own—I mean, it could well be our own. But there’s a darkness to it, something like a shadow creeping on its edges. Very much like what you’d find in the Hinterlands, which a lot of sense given the author. A delightfully dark tale, one fans of Schwab or Kingfisher will enjoy.

The romance, however. It’s not great. It… never really felt real to me. More like a childish crush that we just continued because we felt like it was the thing to do. Because we didn’t have any other prospects. It’s very much a love borne out of convenience, if history. And while it may not have made a ton of sense at any time in the story, it made even less sense in the end. Fortunately, the romance is a bit of an afterthought—it’s not vital to the plot. Less of a plot point, more of an addendum.

TL;DR

While I didn’t come to Our Crooked Hearts for the romance, I wasn’t asked to stay for it either. Instead, author Melissa Albert presents a world very much like our own, albeit with an ever-so-dark twist—one you may not even notice until it starts creeping around the edges of your vision. What unfolds is a story of a daughter and her mother. One of shared meaning and love. One of darkness and regret. One of mystery and secrets. One that is sure to thrill, but also make you think. One with blood, and rabbits—and often both at the same time. To be honest, I’m not sure what made me stay with Our Crooked Hearts. Maybe it was the delightful darkness. The amazing story. The equally amazing characters. The mystery. The magic. The tension. The secrets, and where they led. There were so many reasons to stay and only the briefest of disappointments when it came to the romance—not something I really read books for anyway. So try Our Crooked Hearts for basically every reason, as it’s an incredible read. Just maybe not the romance.

The Barrow – by Mark Smylie (Review)

Sword & Barrow #1

Grimdark, Fantasy, Epic

Pyr; March 4, 2014

587 pages (paperback)

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8.5 / 10 ✪

With the long-awaited release of Black Heart earlier this year, it was time to revisit the world of Artesia via The Barrow, a prequel adventure to the comics/graphic novels that I’ve not yet read. What I remembered about the book I read back in 2014 could’ve filled… well, a paragraph? A short one, at least.

Deep and extensive world-building. A highly addictive read full of adventure, magic, darkness, intrigue, and bloody fights. Also, very graphic sex.

Which… yeah, is basically the Barrow in a nutshell. But let’s go a little deeper, shall we?

To find the Sword, unearth the Barrow. To unearth the Barrow, follow the Map.

Stjepan Black-Heart, murderer, royal cartographer, and adventurer, is desperate for success. But then he’s traversed the whole of the Middle Kingdoms—even escaping their bounds, and crossing the continent itself. But for his greatest adventure, he must turn to somewhere oh so close to home.

When asked just who she was, Erim wasn’t sure what to say. But after a trip to Manon Mole, she would’ve said she was Stjepan’s man. Only hiccup being that she ain’t a man at all, but a woman masquerading as one. What she may lack in confidence, Erim makes up in skill. Her skill with a blade, specifically. But this latest adventure may answer a few questions for her—if it doesn’t kill her first.

Harvald Orwain is the youngest son of a once great house, determined to retrieve his family’s honor. He’s also a troublemaker, thief, and architect of the crew’s current mission. After all, only a miracle can resurrect their family name. A miracle, or a mythical sword.

The sword Gladringer is one of the most legendary blades in creation. Used by the last Dragon king to slay the Wormlords and their hell-forged swords, it was lost by a lord known forever as the Fumbler, and fell out of hand and into legend. However, rumor has it that it was taken up by Azharad, an evil warlock without equal, and was buried with him in his barrow when he fell. Many adventurers have set out to find this blade, and only a few returned empty-handed.

Because most never returned at all.

The problem with the barrow is, while it’s thought to exist in the Bale Mole, its precise locale is lost to time. And the Bale Mole is as vast as it is deadly. And yet Harvald and Stjepan have hope. Because they have found something that no one else has.

A map.

But even with a map, a quest into the Bale Mole is fraught with danger. They’ll need a some weapons, some talent, some expendables—they’ll need a crew.

Gilgwyr is a brothel owner and exceptional pervert. The only thing he likes more than sex is power, and the coin to enable it. Leigh, a magus who may not be the evil wizard he was exiled for, but he’s definitely gone a little bit crazy in his years alone. Arduin Orwain is the scion of Harvald’s house, brought low by scandal. Annwyn is the beautiful cause of said scandal. Godewyn Red-Hand is a mercenary, murderer, rapist, and professional asshole. But where the crew is headed, they’ll need all the help they can get.

Wilhem Price and Sir Colin Urwed were walking around the Ladies’ Tent, marking a sentry circle, scanning the field and hills around them, when they heard something like a whisper come up from the hill. They turned and looked up the hill just in time to see a plunge of dust jet out from the entrance to the barrow some six hundred paces away up the stone steps. The two of them took a few steps toward the hill and stopped, then looked at each other.

A bloody, violent, brutal romp through half the empire to the tomb of an evil necromancer. Absolutely filled with violence, lore, graphic sex, and “oh FUCK” moments. Supported by tension, mystery—and lore the likes of which is rarely seen. Did I mention the graphic, graphic sex? It’s like, I mean, I can’t judge personal preference or taste but… it’s borderline too much. Beastiality, incest, consenting adults and all that. I mean, it’s definitely noticeable, especially in the beginning. But then the adventure takes over.

This is the dark fantasy you always wanted. Or never wanted to see. Or… probably somewhere in between.

And if the graphic sex didn’t scare you off, the gratuitous violence probably won’t either. But, to be fair, it really isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely grimdark level combat, but Smylie doesn’t have the bloody red streak that you’ll see in Abercrombie and Lawrence. But he does have his own personal touch (what with the all sex and such).

The adventure, the quest is the reason to come and the reason to stay. Set in a world of deep lore and meticulously built from the ground up, Artesia is truly a wonder, say what you will about how it comes across. There’s just so much to it—the depth keeps going. Sometimes this was borderline too much as well; unwanted info that otherwise spoiled the mood, or more likely the pace, though I really couldn’t find myself caring overly much about it. This is the Barrow’s charm, you see. You take one with the other. And to go on this legendary adventure, you’re going to have to pick up a bit of its history. History that was mostly quite entertaining. I only ever really noticed it near the end. Otherwise, I didn’t care.

The adventure itself… well, it’s a treasure hunt through a kingdom of lords and thieves. Of whores and ladies. Of magic and mystery. Of darkness and… darker darkness. It’s everything that you ever dreamt when you first read Narnia and though “hmmm that doesn’t seem realistic”. It’s a treasure-hunt with all the blood and sex and battles and undead and intrigue and mythos and more. It’s a hell of an adventure and a hell of a read.

And it’s just the beginning.

Black Heart, the second Sword & Barrow novel by Mark Smylie, is currently available in three parts as an ebook, but has yet to be picked up by any publisher. If you’re curious about the story there, I’ve a bit of a series of posts about it. I’ll throw the links in down at the bottom. The final entry in the Sword & Barrow, Bright Sword, is in the works. Smylie has said he’s started working on it already, and with Black Heart finally releasing, I’m actually hopeful we’ll see it in the next few years.

• Black Heart Updates •

BH IBH IIBH IIIBH IV

The Ballad of Perilous Graves – by Alex Jennings (Review)

Cover complements of Lisa Marie Pompilio

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Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

Orbit Books; June 21, 2022

456 pages (paperback)

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DNF @ 254 pages

I was kindly granted an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Orbit for the lovely physical ARC! All opinions are my own.

I’ve copied and pasted the official blurb for this (did add a bit to it); the reason will become very clear upon perusing my review.

In a fantastical version of New Orleans where music is magic, a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song in this vibrant and imaginative debut.

Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women keep the order, and where songs walk, talk and keep the spirit of the city alive. To those from Far Away, Nola might seem strange. To failed magician, Perilous Graves, it’s simply home. Then the rhythm stutters.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the magical piano that maintains the city’s beat and without them, Nola will fail. Unexpectedly, Perry and his sister, Brendy, are tasked with saving the city. They’ll need some help—but fortunately their friend (and Perry’s crush) Peaches, is equal to the task. There are also some terrible parents, some nonchalant zombies, and a whole bunch of haints. But a storm is brewing and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Even if they capture the songs, Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

So, we all know what this is about. It’s right there in the blurb. But the first time I saw it in the text, I squinted and cocked my head. Because the first time Perilous and gang bring it up is without any coaxing, investigation, or seeing/hearing of it before. It seems to just be a “oh, duh, of course that’s what we’ll do”. It’s a bit like Gandalf saying that the only way to destroy the One Ring is in the fires of Mount Doom; with ultimate confidence, but no prior mention of where this information came from. After Perilous and gang say this, they’re off on a harebrained adventure. “Harebrained” as in rash, nonsensical and completely out of nowhere.

One of the stranger issues with this book is its maturity level. I’d class it as an adult fantasy, because of language and content, despite the fact that the two main protagonists (Perry and Brendy) are 11 and 8 (I’ve no idea how old Peaches is, but I think she’s just a kid like them). Sometimes, they act like the children they are. Other times, they act like the adults they’ve yet to become. This often falls to Brendy, who flirts at a very impressive level for a girl who’s not through puberty, swears at an impressive level for any age, and shows an amazing depth-of or lack-of maturity seemingly at the flip of a coin. Perry usually acts more like an 11 year old, except when he doesn’t. The inconsistency in Ballad is infuriating—and while the it’s by no means confined to the characters—that is its most blatant.

And then there’s Casey Bridgewater. Casey is a trans woman, which seems to be the only reason she’s included. I swear this isn’t just me being cynical. As of the halfway point in the book, she doesn’t connect to Perilous or anyone he knows, anything magical in the slightest, or—as far as I can tell—even the Nola in its magical incarnation. Instead it seems that Casey’s a resident of plain old New Orleans, where she… I’m not honestly sure. Her story kept jumping around (time-wise, year-wise) for no discernible reason, but I’m sure that it was going to connect in some manner eventually. I just had a hard time caring enough to get to that point.

The language, which I initially found interesting and immersive—as well as culturally important and unique—honestly likely made things more confusing, but even without it I doubt there was a plot to be found here. I mean, I know there’s a plot—an actual one that exists. However, it just up and appears fully formed somewhere around the 200-page mark, rather than being like born or built or written in like you’d kinda expect.

While I enjoyed the concept and idea behind this Ballad, the execution just was not there. It was slow and confusing at times, and just plain boring at others. I pressed on way past the point I’d otherwise have done solely because I received a physical copy. Honestly, I think I could complain about this book for a while still. That’s often the case for titles that I’m initially excited for but then end up missing the mark so, so bad. Which the Ballad of Perilous Graves very much did.

TL;DR

I didn’t finish the Ballad of Perilous Graves, but I lasted longer than I’d’ve thought. Partly this was due to my initial excitement for the book, and in part because I received a physical copy of it. It’s not because I had any conflicting feelings regarding the plot, its characters, or the execution of either. This was not a good read for me. There may’ve been a decent story in here somewhere, but I sure didn’t find it. The story regarding the Nine Songs of Power didn’t so much evolve as it did appear, fully formed, with no mention of it prior. It was very much a “well, this is what’s happening in the city—right, we need to find the nine songs and restore order” with no explanation immediately preceding or following. It’s… I mean… sigh. Yeah. I DNFed this because of many, many reasons, but mostly as it was infuriating, boring, and I didn’t enjoy it. Read at your own peril.

Beautiful World of Books – Wheel of Time Recap

Not too much to say about this. It’s just the bloody recap is all; the culmination of the 5-6 posts that have preceded it. I’ll have to work out what to do next, though with my current jobs taxing my energy a bit, I might also just let this segment lie until I find something else that captures my interest enough to resume it. Who knows? Who can say? Let’s just get into it.

But a few notes first:

  • I included a few covers I’d originally missed in specific posts, like the Memory of Light cover for the Tor 2nd’s, which is basically the same (the same picture with a different border) as the Tor 1st version.
  • I included the special split versions of the first two books (eye of the World and the Great Hunt) in the Tor 1st cover section as they bear the same art style. Likewise, I included the Wheel of Time Companion in the Orbit 1st’s, as the art style there is quite similar.
  • I added the final three books to the Orbit 2nd’s, because I felt like I might as well.

Um, anyway…

Eye of the World Anniversary Edition

Tor 1st Editions

Orbit 1st Editions

Tor 2nd Version

Tor 3rd Version

Orbit 2nd Version

And that’s all of them! Did your favorites change upon seeing them all together? I may have the Tor 1st’s in my personal collection, but after this I’d say I’m a convert to the Tor 2nd Versions! I mean, I still HATE the cover of Eye of the World—and vastly prefer the 1st or SE to it—but otherwise it’s pretty much unanimous from me. What do y’all think?

Annex – by Rich Larson (Review)

The Violet Wars #1

Scifi, Dystopian, Aliens

Orbit Books; July 24, 2018

317 pages (paperback)

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7 / 10 ✪

Peter Pan meets Independence Day in Annex, where aliens isolate a small city and attach clamps to the necks of all adults over the age of 16, essentially turning them into zombies—called “wasters” by the Lost Boys that still run the streets. But few of these waifs remain free. The rest of the children have been rounded up and collected into warehouses, where they are implanted with parasites and kept drugged, waiting for whatever nefarious plan the new overlords have in mind.

When Bo escapes from the warehouses, he wants nothing more than to reunite with his sister. Instead, he finds the Lost Boys—or rather they find him.

Violet—a transgender girl—is our main link to the group, led by influential Wyatt and his followers. Unlike Bo, Violet isn’t disappointed the world ended. In fact, she feels liberated. The world ending changed her life—but for the better. And she’s never going back. In this new world she does what she wants, when she wants, as the person who she wants to be. And yet her struggle isn’t complete. There’s still something for Violet out there—and her path to it leads through Bo.

And so these two and the Lost Boys must confront the apocalypse before it’s too late, and before the aliens complete whatever it is they’re up to.

So what do I have to say about the aliens, about the characters, about the world? Not much, to be honest. Other than Violet and Bo they’re pretty much a wash. Wyatt and Bree are the only other characters of note, and both of them are chaotic—though in different ways. Though as the two leads define sooo much of the story, essentially they’re everything important about it. Which is both good and bad. On one hand it’s disappointing that the characters suffer so much of a drop-off from primary to secondary, but on the other, at least the important characters have their shit together. The world and the lore are both equally disappointing. Neither do we know or discover much about throughout the entire story.

Luckily the story itself was entertaining. A no-nonsense plot about alien invaders and the fate of the world, science and action, atmospheric tension and subtle horror—I mean, there’s not a whole lot to complain about. Or analyze. Or… write more words for.

There are a few holes in the world-building that does exist: such as the electricity being out for months though the characters constantly seem to forget it and expect something different. And I really hate the: “it was just a few days, but felt like a lifetime ago”. It’s overused and ridiculous.

TL;DR

Annex is an entertaining read, if a bit of a far-fetched one. Full of action and mystery, deep lead characters, an engaging plot and interesting story—the book is one that certainly starts out on the right foot. But a flawed premise, one-sided secondary characters, and more than a few missteps along the way slow it up. Annex is definitely an example of world-building in a bubble, as the known-world is very much trapped in a bubble. While this can heighten the suspense, it also limits the scope and weight of the story. And as little is ever revealed about the world outside our little bubble of reality, the mystery and suspense can only deliver for so long. When the end comes, it brings with it a sense of fulfillment of the plot and character arcs, but little of the fate of the world itself. All because the world never much seemed in danger—only a piece of it did. All in all, I’d definitely say that the good outweighs the bad and recommend this for anyone who’s a fan of dystopian or young adult, alien invasions or science fiction—particularly where deep issues exceed particularly deep scientific lore or world-building.

A Mirror Mended – by Alix E. Harrow (Review)

Fractured Fables #2

Fantasy, Retelling

Tor.com; June 14, 2022
Macmillan Audio; June 14, 2022

176 pages (ebook)
3hr 48m (audiobook)

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Author WebsiteSocial

8 / 10 ✪

I was kindly granted an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Tor.com, Macmillan, and NetGalley for the eARC! All opinions are my own.

• Review of A Spindle Splintered •

Zinnia Grey—professional fairy-taler and knight in shining armor—has a problem. The problem is not that there aren’t enough princesses to rescue, but too many. Once you’ve made out with 20 princesses, offed 40 evil stepmothers, or gotten drunk with two or three huntsmen and dwarves, everything just starts to run together. So much so that Zinnia is beginning to wish some of the princesses might take initiative and solve their own problems.

The next mirror Zinnia looks in has a face looking right back at her.

Only this face isn’t the young, naïve visage of a princess, but a more mature evil staring back. The more mature, ATTRACTIVE, GORGEOUS, face of evil. But this evil queen isn’t looking to stop Zinnia, she’s after her help. Because she’s learned how her story ends and wants to escape it before the inevitable comes to pass. But should Zinnia decide to help her, the lines of good and evil may blur, and narratives may become irrevocably damaged. Plus, she might just fall in love.

Okay, so it’s $11 for the ebook, or $7.30 for the audiobook version. Please tell me how that makes sense. Normally, I’d just say that the ebook is too expensive and leave it at that. But I’m legitimately confused. I understand that recorded books are more expensive because the author, the narrator, and the publisher all need their cut instead of just the two—but how does it work the other way around?

Anyway, the story. The story is good. I even enjoyed it more than the first one.

See, Zinnia is on a princess-rescuing-bender. It’s been too much, too fast, too long. She has a problem, and the path between right and wrong has begun to blur a little. In the beginning, there’s no way that she’d have considered doing this, but after dozens of weeping princesses and blushing brides she is just looking for a bit of backbone. Or an attractive evil queen that shows some spine (and maybe a hint of cleavage).

No problem with the characters or romance this time around—even I found it a bit refreshing. It did take me a bit to get into, and experienced a bit of a lag in the middle (which was disconcerting since it’s only three hours), though that could’ve boiled down to what I had going on versus how well the narrative was selling itself. So am I really going to criticize this for failing to blow me away? Apparently so, but not much.

The simple fact is that there’s a really good story here, or retelling, at and above the level of what we were previously presented. It’s certainly a good read—or listen, if that’s what you’re into. I quite enjoyed the audio version, as once again Amy Landon brings Zinnia Grey to life in a way I failed to experience from just the text. I’d whole-heartedly recommend A Mirror Mended, particularly as an audiobook—and not just because it’s less expensive.

Now, will there be another, or is this the last we’ve seen of Zinnia Grey? Obviously I can’t get too much into this because of spoilers, but sufficient to say that the conclusion is adequately open-ended to allow for more adventures, but the ending itself was magical enough in its own right to provide the series a proper ending. So… I dunno? Maybe? Either way it was a good ending, one that you’re sure to love whether or not it’s the end of the line for Zinnia.