TBR – June 2020

My ability to read and/or finish a book (ANY book) has been all over the map lately. This, combined with the release schedule for books in July—including titles I haven’t gotten to like Peace Talks, When Jackals Storm the Walls, and Every Sky a Grave—and current ARCs that are already overdue for reviews—like Shorefall, Highfire, or the Kingdom of Liars—means that I’ve no clue what I’ll been reading moving forward. Even like, into next week. Therefore, I’m just going to list a few books that I have and I most feel like reading as of right now.

Currently Reading

• The Tattered Banner – by Duncan M. Hamilton

Progress on the Tattered Banner has stalled, as I find my attention wandering yet again. The story, following Soren on his life as a waif-turned-academy swordsman, has been a bit dry up to this point, and a little detached and impersonal. I’m about 1/3 through, where he leaves school for a bit to go adventuring, and where I hope the story will pick up. But we shall see.

So, first of all, I realize Blood of Empire isn’t on here. And I don’t know what to tell you. I just haven’t been able to get past Chapter 3. And it’s not because the writing is bad, or the story is bad, or… anything else that I can think of. I think I’m anticipating it too much. And I want it to be perfect. And that pressure plus the added pressure I’m feeling from the world right now is proving too much for me. Or whatever.

Where Gods Fear to Go chronicles the continuing adventures of Finnbogi and his companions across pseudo-America toward the Meadows. Though it hasn’t been perfect, this quest has been immensely entertaining, with the final leg of the journey involving peril, pitfalls, and telekinetic sasquatches.

Crownbreaker wraps up the adventures of Kellen, the wandering Jan’Tep turned Argosi spellslinger, who has recently found a home advising a Daroman queen. Though Kellen’s life has already been fraught with challenge, this final entry in the series promises to up the ante, with the outcast returning home to deal with his father, his sister, and the upstart and power-hungry empire he thought he’d left behind for good. I’ve absolutely no idea which direction this is going to go and I can’t sell it enough. That said, I am a bit disappointed as I’ve enjoyed this series so much. The end—whatever it brings—is sure to be bittersweet.

Remember back in January when I wrote the review for Herald of the Storm and wanted desperately to return to the world of Steelhaven? That seems so loooong ago now. I mean… a long, long while. And I still haven’t read this. I recently (like, in March) discovered that River is absent from the Shattered Crown, which soured me a bit on it, but I still do need to make it back. It’s only book #2, after all.

The House of Shattered Wings is a murder mystery set in Paris, featuring the fallout of a heavenly war and its both immortal and mortal survivors. I’d misplaced this for a while but—despite not receiving the greatest reviews—still would like to read it. Why not now, when this corner of the world is currently going to pieces? Perfect time, seems.

Age of Empyre represents the latest MJS series to conclude and, while I was certainly not enamored with the first three books, it’s been night-and-day with the previous two. Since both #4 & #5 have ended in cliffhangers, I assume that Empyre will represent a suitably epic conclusion—one that I cannot wait to experience for myself.

I’ve been waiting on After Atlas for when I’m also working on a fantasy adventure, so the two might balance one another out, but as I’ve been playing the Last of Us in my spare time (I’m working on a final run of the first one before I start part deus) I haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I shall. Probably soon. Ish.

I’ve finished one (ONE) physical, like, made-of-paper book since April 7th. Considering I usually have a rotation of three going (one physical, one audio, one ebook) at one time, this has cut into my reading somewhat. Furthermore, considering that most of my TBR titles are physical books, this has somewhat impeded my progress on my list for the year. But… well, what can you do? So we journey onward.

TBR Read Since April

Since I did something different in May, this represents the TBR I finished in the last two months. Four titles—not bad. But only one off my 2020 list, which we are at 6/18 through, which… ain’t too shabby, tbh. I figured 10 would be a good number to shoot for for the year, and halfway through the year (yes, the year’s only halfway done) I’m already over half done (but only 1/3 to ticking them all off).

Read any of these? Any I need to add/skip? Anything else happening? I know this month’s TBR is a bit late, but I was mostly busy not reading things on it lately.

(Also, adding that last group of 4 images took 6 tries, which is ridiculous, since they were already in my library)

Most Anticipated Books of the 2nd Half of 2020

July

07.07Every Sky a Grave – by Jay Posey (Ascendance #1)

A planetary assassin that wields the Language of the Universe meets a new power that uses the same Language in ways previously believed impossible.

07.14Peace Talks – by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #16)

An accord between wizards and vampires gets real when Harry Dresden shows up. But can he keep the peace, or will his presence lead the sides back to the brink of war?

07.14When Jackals Storm the Walls – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Shattered Sands #5)

The Kings no longer rule Sharakai. But with the city on the brink of destruction, will Çeda set aside her differences with the former tyrants in order to save the city, or will the Shangazi finally claim Sharakai for its own?

07.21Ashes of the Sun – by Django Wexler (Burningblade & Silvereye #1)

Two siblings on very different sides. With a civil war looming, they will learn that though little is as strong as the bonds of blood, sometimes not even kinship is enough.

07.28Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz

When a cybernetically enhanced supersoldier frees an experimental assassin from beneath a shadow-organization’s thumb, what he learns about the world will surprise him. But the real shock is the chemistry between the two, and where it leads.

August

08.04The Black Song – by Anthony Ryan (Raven’s Blade #2)

The Blood Song has returned to Vaelin Al Sorna, but at what cost? This new song calls for blood above all else, and the more the better. But with a battle against a demigod looming, it might be all that keeps him alive long enough to regret it.

08.14Driftwood – by Marie Brennan

It’s the wake for Last, a legend to those that didn’t know the man behind the stories. But as more stories come out, not even those that thought they knew the legend are sure what to think. For who or what was Last, and is he really gone?

September

09.14The Trouble With Peace – by Joe Abercrombie (Age of Madness #2)

The old ways are breaking, and it’s up to the new generation to see them through this time. Unfortunately, the old generation still has center stage. And they must navigate the turbid waters of rebellion, discontent, betrayal and blood in order to seize the day, or lose it.

09.29The Constant Rabbit – by Jasper Fforde

Anthropomorphized rabbits overrun Britain, garnering hate on all sides. When the Rabbit comes to Peter Knox’s small town, he’s forced to choose a side; what he believes to be true, versus what maintains the peaceful life that he’s built for himself.

09.29Battle Ground – by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #17)

The Last Titan is descending on Chicago, and she’s bringing an army. Harry Dresden’s mission is simple: kill the unkillable, save the world. But the thing about unkillable things are that they’re really, really hard to kill. And the attempt will cost the world a price beyond imagination.

November

11.07The Rhythm of War – by Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archive #4)

The reformed Knights Radiant have spent the last year in a stalemate with the enemy. But though a new technology may tip the balance in their favor, they may just threaten everything the Radiants stand for.

11.24Forged – by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus #11)

Hunted and mistrusted for years, Alex Verus has finally embraced his darker side. With Levistus in his sights and Anne willing to let the world burn around them, Alex must make another choice—between the woman he loves and the fate of the world.

December

12.08Memoria – by Kristyn Merbeth (Nova Vita Protocl #2)

The Kaisers aren’t adapting to their new life on-planet well. Scorpia is pushing to return to space, while Corvus is rooted in his soldiering past. But with the fate of the Nova Vita at stake, each must do their part to discover the mystery behind the war, or be forced to repeat it.

Of these, I’m probably most anticipating… oooh tough call! I’m leaning towards Ashes of the Sun and Forged, but it’s really hard to go against Peace Talks or the Rhythm of War. My favorite cover is on Memoria, though the US cover of RoW isn’t out yet, so I’m not 100%. Both her Nova Vita books have been neon wet-dreams though- I LOVE them! Any of these on anyone else’s list too? Did I miss any? I’m sure I did! Which cover do you like the best? Let me know what you think!

The Constant Rabbit – by Jasper Fforde (Review)

Standalone

Fantasy, Humor, Alt-History

Hodder & Stoughton; July 2, 2020 (UK)

Viking; September 29, 2020 (US)

326 pages (ebook)

4 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

I was kindly provided an advance-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

Last year I actually read my first Jasper Fforde novel—Early Riser—and it was straaange. Like Jeff Noon strange. Like… something else strange. A story about a dream, a seasonal hibernation, and a love story between people that up until the halfway mark I didn’t realize weren’t people at all. Then there was an ending that confused me so thoroughly I didn’t know what to make of it. Fforde follows this oddity up with the Constant Rabbit, a tale about anthropomorphized rabbits and their acceptance among humankind. It’s… maybe less absurd, but that’s absurd in a good way. I think.

Peter Knox lives in Much Hemlock, a quiet little town in England, much away from the fuss of the city. Nothing gets its citizens riled up like their football, the Spick & Span awards, and Rabbits. Peter is much more concerned with his hobby of Speed Librarying, something that I couldn’t explain if I even had the faintest clue what the hell it is. And I don’t. But Rabbits are a concern to everyone else in Much Hemlock, so they are to Peter as well.

55 years earlier, an event known as “The Event” rocked Britain, spontaneously anthropomorphizing 18 rabbits, 9 bees, one caterpillar and a small host of other beasties. The bees haven’t been seen since and the caterpillar was so disturbed by the whole endeavor that it took up in a cocoon and hasn’t yet emerged. While the other species failed to make much of a dent on society, the Rabbits flourished, breeding, well, like rabbits. A jump forward to the present day finds around 4 million Rabbits in Britain alone. They speak, they work, they drive. They serve in the military, the navy, and eat a lot of lettuce and carrots. And they are hated for all of it.

Nothing has unified humanity like something else to hate. Something different. The Rabbit—while anthropomorphized (their bodies look like human bodies, with curves and bulges in all the right places)—are certainly different. Though they look a lot more human than their small, cuddly brethren, they just as clearly aren’t. What they lack in thumbs, Rabbits make up for in ears and teeth. And while humanity by in large hasn’t accepted them yet, the Rabbit is here to stay.

Or are they?

Peter works at RabCoT—the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce—which is an organization specifically designed to manage and police all matters Rabbit within England. While to his neighbors, he is simply a lowly accountant, Peter Knox is in reality a spotter: someone whose job it is to discern one Rabbit from another. This is just as difficult as it sounds as most Rabbits can’t tell most humans apart, and the feeling is quite mutual. Spotting is something that some people just have the knack for; it can’t be taught or learned, Peter is blessed with the ability, and in a rare position to use it. He’s also a rarity for his liberal views of Rabbits, something which is decidedly NOT the norm at RabCoT. Most are just one step above TwoLegsGood—a radical humanoid supremacist group—in their disdain for the Rabbit. But like it or not, the Rabbit are here to stay, and people have to learn to accept them.

That is, until a group of off-colony Rabbits move in next-door to Peter.

And, much to Peter’s surprise, he knows one of them. A Rabbitess by the name of Connie, whom he met in university—met and fell for, though nothing happened—arrives with her family, and turns Peter’s life upsidedown. For while the entire village of Much Hemlock is queueing up behind Peter to bribe, force or burn the Rabbits out of town, Peter himself is reluctant to see them go. For seeing Connie has opened a door he had thought was closed for good, and set in motion a series of events that will change Peter—and the world—forever.

**—**

So, I’m not sure what is an odder pitch: a winter wonderland full of murderous dreams, or a budding romance between an Englishman and an anthropomorphized Rabbit. I mean… it’s a tough call.

While the plot follows Peter in his life and job and interaction with Constance, the real story is that of the Rabbits and Humanity. As I said before, nothing has united humanity like someone else to hate. For years, we’ve been hating our neighbors, be it over religion, heritage, ethnicity, gender or creed. When there wasn’t any of that around, we came up with something else. So, drop a bunch of Rabbits in the gene-pool—anthropomorphized or not—and our fear of all things new and different takes it from there. The premise of the Constant Rabbit can be interpreted in so many ways, it’s difficult to know where to start. So much so, in fact, that I’m going to skip most of them. You know when you were in school, and your English teacher told you to read whatever book and correctly interpret what the author was thinking, only to later tell you that you were dead wrong and that they were actually trying to tell you this other thing? Yeah, I always hated that. Because the only one that could really know what the author was thinking was the author—and in Fforde’s case he isn’t talking (yet). So I’m not going to wildly speculate about what the author was trying to impart—I’m just going to pick the most obvious (to me at least) one. And talk about it for a sentence or two.

So, the Constant Rabbit deals quite a bit in the overwhelming leporiphobia of the Rabbit, the bigotry and abuse they suffer, how the government monitors and mistreats them, how radical groups go a step further—just short of killing them and making a stew. And now imagine our own world, where there is more than enough of this around despite the lack of 6ft, fuzzy, fully anthropomorphized Rabbits.

There’s no sex, in case anyone was wondering, so I’m fairly certain Fforde isn’t advocating beastiality. It’s probably just the racism one.

Reading this at the time I read it, with the backdrop of protests and racism and all else—it was impossible not to make some connections. But you can interpret those for yourself. I’m just going to deal with the story from here on out.

And… the story’s pretty good. It’s enjoyable, no matter your politics, if you can get past that. There’s the usual dry humor that Fforde imbues into the text, predominately through subtle wit, sarcasm, and the use of footnotes. It’s all quite entertaining, even the story of star-crossed lovers reuniting after an age apart. Even if one of them is an anthropomorphized Rabbit and the other’s English. Honestly, the romance was more compelling than I’d’ve thought, as it was the driving force—not the plot itself, which is by no means bad—that saw me through this book. The plot is alright, but one more interwoven with politics, which soured me on it (I loathe politics). The love story is more genuine, more real—even though Constance is a bit of a mystery throughout and Peter (though English) has quite a bit of character development and change to go through before the end.

Oh, and I still can’t explain Speed Librarying. As hooks go, this one was a bust—I was so thoroughly confused halfway through the first chapter that I ended up skipping straight to the second and beginning the book there. But this was one of only a few hitches in the story, as mostly everything carried on quite nicely over Peter Knox’s POV (he’s the only POV), through twists and turns, up hills and down valleys, until at some point it turned into not just a political piece, but an entertaining and enjoyable read as well.

TL;DR

The Constant Rabbit is the height of Jasper Fforde’s game, as it combines the author’s unique and shrewd writing style view and blends it with current hot-topics such as racism, bigotry and giant, anthropomorphized Rabbits. Then tops that with a healthy dose of absurdity, tomfoolery, and carrots. Peter Knox was an ideal narrator; a liberal view but one used to the comfort and order of the status quo. Though few other characters fleshed out quite like he did, it was Peter’s development that really sold the plot, the way that he viewed things altering the way I thought about even the most inane detail. While some may read into the politics of the book too much to enjoy it any, if you’re able to look past the present day parallels drawn to race, hatred, bigotry and violence—you might just find an enjoyable adventure within, albeit one that still involves anthropomorphic rabbits. One might even buy in to the romance within the story, one that—while a bit odd—was enough to keep me reading through to the end.

Red Noise – by John P. Murphy (Review)

Standalone / Noob #1

Scifi

Angry Robot; June 9, 2020 (ebook) July 14, 2020 (PB)

448 pages (ebook)

4 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

I was kindly provided an advance-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

Bebop meets Borderlands in Red Noise, where the stylized samurai western former combines with the casual and often dark humored killing of the latter to create something in between. The story definitely has a dark twist, which becomes more evident the further you read. But read further still, and you’ll find that it also has heart.

Station 35 looms out of the darkness. The Miner came to sell her ore, fill up on food, water and air, and get back to her claim. Though initially warned off docking by another trader, she has little choice but to do so when her ship runs out of fuel. And once on the station, it’s going to be hard getting off.

Throughout the text, the Miner often goes simply by her moniker. Otherwise, she is referred to as Jane or Mick, for reasons that’ll become clear when you read it. We do eventually learn her name, her real name, but that really doesn’t mean anything. Yet. Maybe not ever.

Fresh off the boat, the Miner is thrown in the deep end, as both gangs come out to woo her to their cause. She stiffs them both, preferring just to sell her ore and leave. But the station isn’t done with her just yet, and the stationmaster makes this abundantly clear. After shortchanging her on ore and tripling the price of fuel, she’s pretty much stranded.

But the Miner’s not the type to be tied down. So she hangs out with Kenshi Takata—the resident station good-guy and restaurateur (you know the one)—and the former station master turned drunk, Herrera. Where she watches, and waits.

On one side, John Feeney hunkers in the hotel. Once the gangland kingpin of Station 35, Fennel survived a coup in the aftermath of his grandson implanting a nuke in his chest. Mary, Feeney’s granddaughter remains his only family, but rarely agrees with her grandfather’s methods. His crew is the bigger of the two, but more of a rabble. On the opposite side, Angelica del Rios lounges in the casino. Once a hangout for Mr Shine—we’ll get to him—she and her brother Raj took it over after their fallout with Feeney. Though smaller than Feeney’s crew, they’re better armed, better trained. In the middle, there’s the police chief, Tom McMasters. Corrupt to the core, he has fingers in both pockets. His security personnel keep the peace—enough. An all-out gang war is bad for business, but so is a hard peace. So they keep it somewhere in the middle, while McMasters turns a profit. Down below is Mr Shine. Once and always respected, he’s been driven into the station’s underbelly with a ragtag band of dishwashers, butchers, craftsmen, and various commonfolk, of unknown strength and number.

Eventually, each gang comes to woo her in turn. And when it becomes clear her sword isn’t just for show, the competition for her services intensifies. But while working for one side may pay well enough for her to escape, it’s not ultimately satisfying. So the Miner decides to play them against one another. Now all she has to do is survive to see her plan to fruition.

———————

While it’s not a polished gem, I’d say Red Noise is a diamond in the rough. Okay, maybe not a diamond. More of an uncut… Coltan. Dull, black, but with a bit of a metallic sheen. Which I think adequately describes the book. Dark, but harboring a golden finish.

^ Coltan ^

When I was gearing up for Red Noise, I heard quite a bit about it. There was a lot of contention, mostly about the Miner herself—her femininity, her emotional depth, more. As expected, now that I’ve read it, I’ve some thoughts on the matter.

I’ve seen a fair number of reviews stating that the Miner acts like a man, or isn’t that she wasn’t “feminine” or “unique” enough to be a woman. To be perfectly honest, not only do I not agree with this, I’m not even sure what it means (seriously, “unique”?). There’s no set amount of femininity required for a woman to be a woman. Some women are more “feminine” than others. One reviewer stated that she “couldn’t tell you how many times the female ‘rubbed her chin’”. Now I was watching out for this, and I counted. Three. It happened three times. But that’s not even the important part. The thing is, who says it’s a male attribute to rub their chin. I’m a guy, and I don’t think I’ve ever rubbed my chin. I’ll scratch it occasionally when I grow out my beard, but not rub it. The Miner does scratch and rub various other parts of her body, but this can be explained away by any number of reasons. Maybe being alone for so long lowered her inhibitions about certain “etiquette”. Maybe it’s the lack of bathing. Or maybe it’s the scars. The Miner has a lot of scars. And let me tell you, scars can get itchy, especially if they’re accompanied by an unpleasant memory.

The next is the Miner’s emotional depth. She does often feel cold, emotionless, distant. But some people are just like this. Later in the story, she will open up a bit and show more sensitivity, more vulnerability, but early on she can come across a bit cold. I’m leaning towards this being the author’s intention, rather than bad writing, but I can definitely understand how this could drive some readers away. Not everyone likes a ronin with a heart of stone. Sometimes you like the lead to emote, to think, to FEEL—and that’s okay. Red Noise has this, but you have to read into it a ways, and even then it’s more subtle than many other texts. Screwball—your secondary lead—for his part, is more emotional and sensitive, though he more often comes across as whiny, at least early on.

I’m not sure exactly what to say about the novel’s characters. There’s a main cast, and then everyone else. Some of them have names in the way that disposable characters do—but little in the way of backstories. The main cast is much better. They have more depth, more history, more development—just don’t expect them to exhibit it all up front. Like everything else in Red Noise, you have to dig in for it. Now it’s good that this book had a legitimate, dedicated cast, but their depth gave them away. It’s like this: there’re a bunch of people walking around, some we come to recognize, others just a name and a face—who do you think is going to die? Because it’s a bloody book—someone’s going to die. Just don’t expect any of the lifers to go early on. This isn’t GoT. Also there’s not a ton of character development, even from the lifers. Instead… I’d call it more character “progression”. It’s not a constant. They can change over time, but I wouldn’t say many of them evolve. Their motives, their demeanors might change, but there’s little enough in the way of behavior or thought. There is some, just not much.

I thoroughly enjoyed the setting. Station 35 reminds me of Blue Heaven from Outlaw Star (another anime, manga—google it), with warrens and gangs and a “strict” no-gun policy. An old, ruined military outpost where its citizens eke out their lives, however fruitless they may’ve become. Hope mired within hopelessness. It definitely has a brooding feel, like the streets of a plague-infested ruin in the dead of night. The only stretch of civilization between Stations 34 and 36, it constantly reminds you that there’s no escape—and no help coming.

The plot itself isn’t terribly inventive. It’s built on revenge, betrayal, distrust, greed, even hope. But it’s fairly simple, and a bit clichéd. The were no mysteries to solve, no conspiracies to unravel—despite how much the story tries to tell you that there are. I found it to be a straightforward tale. Yes, there are some twists and turns, a few unexpected occurrences, but nothing groundbreaking. Red Noise sets out to tell a bloody tale of greed and deceit and chaos, and does just that. It’s enjoyable, just not overly complex.

TL;DR

Red Noise is Bebop meets Borderlands—a science fiction samurai western with a bloody, but carefree finish. It’s like a chunk of uncut Coltan—mostly dull and dark, but with a slightly golden finish. It reminded me most of a 90’s anime, which made my read-through of it as enjoyable as it was nostalgic. There’s a lot of contention surrounding this book—specifically with the Miner and her mannerisms—which I’d advice are best ignored. Everyone is going to make something of it, and no one’s going to agree completely with anyone else’s interpretation. But the same can be said of anything—Red Noise just seems to bring it out more. Still, the book isn’t for everyone. It’s dark, it’s bloody, it’s chaotic. “Organized chaos”, I would call it. The Miner’s really an anti-hero, and there’s not a lot of love to go around. Those who idealize women may not like it, nor may those that like to know all their characters’ thoughts and emotions. Red Noise tells a blunt tale, but also a subtle one. On the surface there’s nothing but blood and death and deceit, yet read on and dig down and you will find a layer of gold beneath it.

Music Monday – Fav American Local Bands

Music Monday is a meme created by Drew the Tattooed Book Geek. If you’d like to hear his chill (or otherwise) vibes, head over here.

I believe there’s already a term coined for this, but I don’t know it. So let me explain real quick: first off, these are American bands. They mostly release singles and EPs, though occasionally spring for full-length albums. They play shows, and even tour, but only within a certain radius or area of the country, usually the one they live in. None of them are located up where I am, but that’s not unusual. Not a whole lot of non-country, non-bluegrass, non-folk bands are. I listen to a fair amount of music from bands like this, which is much easier than it used to be thanks to sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, or even Amazon. And while I do love Spotify, if I really like a song by one of these little-known bands, I usually try to buy it. Below are a few examples of my favorite local bands from around America.

Æther Realm (Asheville, North Carolina) – Folk Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Viking Metal

Cold Kingdom (Minneapolis, Minnesota) – Rock, Hard Rock

Daybreak Embrace (Miami, Florida) – Alternative Metal, Fusion Metal, Rock

I-Exist (Indianapolis, Indiana) – Electronic Rock, Inspiration Metal, Post-EDM

Fivefold (St. Louis, Missouri) – Heavy Rock, Alternative Rock

I know these are mostly hard rock and metal, so I’ll try to incorporate something else next time. What d’you think—folk or hip hop? Or maybe punk or pop? Bluegrass? Ummmm…

Book Loot – June Edition

So, June was a fun month, eh? I know, I know—and it isn’t even over yet. With my illness and the lack of work, and the lack of new jobs (especially those who want to hire people with COVIDish symptoms), I think I drove maybe twice this month. Both times to go to the doctor. So… fun! Well, there’re plenty of amazing books to look forward to this summer, many of them in July. Here are but the few I’ve been granted access to:

ARCs for July

The Constant Rabbit – by Jasper Fforde (7/02 – UK • 9/29 US)

The Constant Rabbit is a Jasper Fforde book, which means it’s probably gonna be weird (update: it sure is!). 50 years before the start of the novel—in an event known only as “The Event”—18 rabbits were anthropomorphized. Since then, their numbers have exploded in the UK alone, and the relations between the two have gotten strained to a tipping point. For though the Rabbit has proven to be a patient, peaceful people—will it continue?

Pretty good so far, btw! I enjoyed my last Fforde (Early Riser) novel right up until the end, and hopefully the Constant Rabbit will be no different. Or better—hopefully it’ll be even better!

Every Sky a Grave – by Jay Posey (7/07)

A brand new space opera from the creator of the Duskwalker saga, Every Sky a Grave centers around the planetary assassin Elyth. Privy to the mysterious Language of the Universe, she and her order have the means to doom and destroy worlds with but a few words and a touch. But when a new power emerges using the Language in previously unheard-of ways, Elyth and her order are in for the fight of their lives. Because no one likes competition.

Red Noise – by John P. Murphy (7/14)

All the Miner wanted was to offload her haul, load up on supplies, and return to her claim in peace. But after stopping in at Station 35, she becomes embroiled in a turf war between two rival gangs and the corrupt head of security. With no supplies, no coin, and no other options, the Miner decides to join up and make some quick and easy blood money. But why pick just one side when she can play them all?

I’d heard some disagreement among reviewers who got to this before I did, but personally I quite liked it! The story reminds me of anime with a western vibe and provides enough action and stealth that I couldn’t help but fall in. Review should be up on Tuesday!

When Jackals Storm the Walls – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (7/14 US • 7/23 UK)

The penultimate Shattered Sands features a Shangazi much changed. The rule of the Kings in Sharakai has ended—blood mage Queen Meryam now rules the city in their stead. Out in the desert, tensions have finally boiled over. Relationships have crumbled and hate grown in their place. How Emre, Davud, Brama and Ihsan handle these is sure to shape the world, should each survive long enough to see it through. Elsewhere, Nalamae has been killed by her siblings, prompting her cycle of rebirth to renew itself. Though Çeda scours the desert for the goddess, her search will eventually lead her to Sharakai where she is faced with an impossible choice: will she join forces with the treacherous Kings, or risk the city’s destruction? Whatever she decides is sure to have consequences, and ooooh I can’t wait to read this one!

Ashes of the Sun – by Django Wexler (7/21)

Long ago, a war leveled an empire. A new one regrew in its place, but old tensions still simmer. And now a new war looms. Gyre hunts for a legendary artifact that may yet save his people, with the power to destroy the Twilight Order. But while searching the mysterious ruins he comes upon something unexpected. His sister. The same sister his parents sold a decade past to the Order. But she is not the kin he remembers, and nothing—not even blood—will stop the two from rending the world in twain.

Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz (7/28)

A rollicking cyberpunk thriller about two supersoldiers with panic disorders, PTSD, and crippling anxiety. When Mat takes a job transporting cargo for the mysterious IAC, he inadvertently discovers the cargo isn’t a package at all. It’s a woman. Sylvia has been transformed almost beyond recognition. Augmented with radically experimental hardware, she’s been transformed (against her will) into the pinnacle of stealth assassins. And she can’t handle it. When Mat decides to free her, the two become the poster children of Enemy of the State, and there’s no Gene Hackman around to help them out. If they want to live long enough to rescue Sylvia’s family from the IAC, they have to learn to work together. But the chemistry that follows may catch them both off-guard.

Review to come on this one too, but I personally LOVED IT. So, start anticipating it now, yeah?

Purchases

I backed Benedict Patrick’s Kickstarter, and got the promise of some loot in the future, but nothing right now. Bit of a gamble for me, to be honest. If you’re interested, check it out. If not, don’t.

A late addition here was the only book I bought this month. And I didn’t expect it so quickly! I could post a blurb, but the picture’s really worth the most words here.

As I have not been granted (yet, at least) Peace Talks, you can go ahead and anticipate that next month. Because I am totally buying that book. But first, some Murderbot.

Gifts & Freebies

Minor Mage – by T. Kingfisher

A birthday present from my sister, regarding Oliver—a very minor mage. Armed with an armadillo familiar, three spells (one to control his allergies to armadillos), and little enough magic to place himself firmly on Rincewind’s level, he’s pretty much worthless as a mage. Unfortunately, he’s all there is.

And They Were Never Heard From Again – by Benedict Patrick

An intro faerie tale to Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series, this free novella features a forest full of monsters, a town whose citizens lock themselves in the cellar at night, and two brothers caught far from home when the sun goes down.

I’ve actually reviewed this—here—already. An entertaining, if ultimately disappointing read. The world, however, drank me in so much that I can’t wait to return to it! September can’t come fast enough!

Games

The Long Dark (PS4)

The most recent update kept crashing my computer, so I was forced to make a choice. Did I buy the console version, or—I bought the console version. Bummed that I had to pay for the damned thing twice, but Hinterland’s really made a good survival game here, and I suppose I’m happy enough to support them. Still rankles a bit, though. Like half the gaming world, I eagerly await the Last of Us II, so I’m sure a replay of #1 will warrant itself in the near future.

Afterword

I’m slowly getting better from the respiratory infection that’s been plaguing me for months. It’s going to be a long, hard way back, especially with all the muscle I’ve dropped in the past 6 months, and especially with backpacking season looming. All my friends have pulled out of the would-be trip this year, so I’m planning on Lone Wolfing it. Which is equal parts invigorating and terrifying. Luckily, there’s a trail I’ve always wanted to pack about half an hour away, and I’ve never seen anyone on it. It’s a bit long (like, 12 miles in) though, so we’ll see how it goes. I just need to feel better, and it needs to stop snowing, eh (snowed on Monday, fyi). But first, there’s a wedding or two, a lot to read, and an illness to conquer. I hope y’all are having a… as good a year as can be expected! Anticipating these or any other books in July? Anything else on your reading list for the month? Anything I need to check out? Any exciting summer plans? Let me know, please. Otherwise—stay safe and be well!

I’ve been watching ‘Hate Thy Neighbor’ and… people are lovely. Just… really. Racism, sexism, and bigotry abound, and can be based on upbringing, environment, society, even losing out on a job, and so much more. In my opinion, people are allowed to believe what they want, as well as to express their own opinions. That said… there’s no need to just spew hate around. Oh, and that even though you might think the COVID threat has ended, it’s not something you can just wish away. So please try to keep socially distant, wear a mask, be careful, and don’t be a dick. Seriously, don’t be a dick.

Update – Currently Reading

So since yesterday, I started a new book. It started with an email I received from the publisher, asking how I’d liked the read, and imploring me to get my review for it in. I’ve nothing against the asking, but this caught me off guard. See, the book in question had been delayed in the US til late September. So I’ve put it off a bit as my July is littered with new releases, and I’m not a very fast reader. But I overlooked two important details. One—I didn’t check to see if it was delayed in Europe as well and—two—I’d forgotten just who granted me the review copy. I don’t get many books off Netgalley UK, but this one I did. And it’s still due out July 2 there. So I’ve shuffled a few things, and begun reading:

• The Constant Rabbit – by Jasper Fforde

If you’ve never read a Jasper Fforde book, let me tell you—they’re odd. Like, really weird. The first chapter of this involved some game called ‘Competitive Librarying’ which confused me so thoroughly that I actually just skipped the chapter. But thankfully, it appears to be just an intro hook. Albeit a massively confounding one. The Constant Rabbit is based on something that has occurred in the UK some 50 years prior, known only as “The Event”, in which 18 rabbits were anthropomorphized. Since then, there are millions of them in the UK alone, and relations between them and humans are… strained. The story seems to center on this point.

It’s okay thus far—weird, which is normal for Fforde—but it’s really coming out at a poor time. I cringe at the idea that someone’s going to compare this with the Black Lives Matter movement, because it WILL happen eventually, and it’s sure to be really insulting. Which is disappointing, as the book is most likely designed to keep you entertained, make you think, and provide some humor.

The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot – by Josh Gottsegen (Review)

Standalone

Middle-Grade, Fantasy

OneLight Publishing; June 23, 2020

219 pages (ebook)

2.0 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

I was kindly provided an advance-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to OneLight Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

When I first saw the Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot, it called to mind one of my favorite series when I was younger: Redwall by Brian Jacques. I loved how the animals wore clothes, swords, lived in castles, sang songs, ate wondrous food, lived exciting lives. The adventure in them made me yearn for it in my own life, and steered me on the path that would define my future. While at first the book seems anything but a fun, simple adventure, the story quickly shifts to the story of Rockford T. Honeypot—told via flashbacks by the now elder Rockford to his great-grandson. It details the young chipmunk’s life in Kona Valley, growing up with his mother Emma, father Clarence, and several brothers, all also named Clarence. Rockford was not like any of his brothers, being more careful, sensitive, and obsessed with cleanliness. Because of this, he was very often singled out, even picked on by his brothers and other bullies in the valley. He favored spending time with his mother, unlike his brothers, and found his first and best friend in her.

But it was because Rockford was not like his brothers that his father came to rely more and more on the young chipmunk. Good with books and numbers though the Clarences never were, a young Rockford soon rose through the ranks of his father’s business, even managing it when his parents went away for a season. But it turned out that not even a proper love of numbers and cleanliness translated into anything approaching business experience. By the time his parents returned, Rockford had bankrupted the business, leaving the Honeypots destitute. And thus did Clarence Honeypot—patriarch of the clan—disown his youngest son, leaving Rockford alone while he took his family elsewhere.

And so, Rockford—alone and untested—set out to find his way in the world. His life would take many turns, suffer many trials and travails, but Rockford would face each head on with a bold face, an iron will, and a bottle of lemon hand-sanitizer. Thus begin the adventures, and who knows where they may lead?

First, I’d like to address the present day. As I mentioned, an elder Rockford tells his tale through a series of flashbacks, in-between returning to the present day for… posterity? Some unknowable reason. I found these interludes painful, almost unreadable. I actually began skipping them, as the language was just painful—some amalgamation of “what the kids today say” and what the author thought the kids today say. The language of the flashbacks reminded me of what someone who’d seen one silent generation flick might write to try to approximate it. As a result it’s awkward, but passable. Luckily the language evens out as Rockford gets older, to the point where I didn’t have an issue with it later on. Sadly, the language in the present day never changes.

I had so many issues with the story itself. Here are just a few. (*) The chipmunks and other animals live in tree houses and ride on hawks and geese and do other things that would suggest they’re the regular size. But then they have individual tiny greenhouses that grow things like pineapples and pecans, how exactly? Are they miniature trees? (*) There are lawyers and court cases and legal terms in this book. They’re even like, a decent part of the plot. Why? Either children are a lot more boring than I remember, or this is a mistake. Also, the lesson seems to be that “it’s bad to sue people, unless you do it”, which is… just dumb. (*) The chipmunks live in the jungle in pine trees with monkeys and bananas and… for a book that has a child that points out the inaccuracies of everything, it’s skipped over that some of these things don’t overlap. (*) “Bullies are always bullies and can’t ever change” seems to be another lesson that really isn’t great. (*) All of the animals can talk to one another, except for the ones that can’t. Which is not explained.

The story is listed as Middle-Grade, but seems to be built so that both younger and older children will appreciate it. Problem is—the plot is probably too juvenile to appeal to older kids and the lexicon is too high to appeal to all but a few of the younger ones. In trying to relate to a bigger audience, it actually excludes more readers.

TL;DR

The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot is a decent distraction at first, but is ultimately annoying. It’s never a great adventure, though it visits a lot of new, different places. The lessons are sometimes vague, other times glaringly obvious, but mostly just strange. It presents more questions than it answers, and mostly just settles with “this is a happy ending, don’t question it”. My advice to the author: drop 90% of the present day stuff—the interludes, the story-telling, the tweeting and posting and hashtags. In fact, do a complete overhaul on the language. Either keep the legal stuff or change it, but don’t leave it as is; it’s honestly painful to read. Please rework the character of little-miss know-it-all. She’s not endearing. Don’t try to expand your audience—you don’t have enough action, adventure or mystery in this to pull it off. Either explain more things about the world or don’t explain anything—but you can’t have it both ways. If I could offer the reader some advice: Probably skip this one. I know it debuts with a pretty low price tag, but it’s really not a steal. Maybe try Redwall instead, it’s always a classic.

On Tap 6/16

Currently Reading

• The Tattered Banner – by Duncan M. Hamilton

Something off my TBR for a while now, you may remember I picked up the trilogy on audio a month or two back. I’ve been reading it while playing the Long Dark, so it’s been entertaining enough. It’s… okay, so far, but shows that it’s the author’s debut book. Soren is a good character to read along to—picked up off the street, enrolled and sponsored in a sword academy, he learns it’s what he’s been seeking all along—but the story is a bit dry thus far. Let’s hope that changes, eh?

• Every Sky a Grave – by Jay Posey

Another scifi book hot on the heels of Red Noise. I LOVED Jay Posey’s Duskwalker series, but never got around to his Outrider ones. If Every Sky a Grave proves good, I may just have to remedy this. Elyth is a planetary assassin that wields the mystical Language of the Universe, to do strange and impossible things. But when another power emerges, manipulating this Language in ways Elyth has never conceived, it will be up to her to… change that? The blurb wasn’t super descriptive, and I’m just starting out. Stay tuned!

• The Poacher’s Son – by Paul Doiron

Well, my dad has me reading one of his mystery/thrillers. Centered around Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, this is the start of what’s now an 11 book series. So far, not bad, though a little cliché. Like the character enough, however, and hope it continues to be alright. My dad and I don’t exactly share a taste in books, but he’s been reading a lot of my fantasy ones lately, so I figured I’d humor him.

Up Next

• After Atlas – by Emma Newman

Considering that June is scifi month (what—November? Noo~) We’ll be continuing on later with this follow-up to Planetfall, which I was rather torn on (the ending, the ending sucked). Luckily (and also unluckily) this takes an entirely new direction, delving into the state of the Earth after the ship Atlas left. It’s one of my Top 2020 TBRs so I hope it’s entertaining!

• In the Village Where the Brightwine Flows – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

A novella following Dardzada, whose cruel half-brother enlists him to help discern what’s happening to the city’s street urchins. I’m not sure, but I imagine it probably snowballs. With When Jackals Storm the Walls coming out in mid-July, I figured this reminder of the Shattered Sands might help me get back into the world with a little brush-up.

Life

So the world continues to spiral. I won’t address it, but y’all know what side I’m on. I swear, it seems we as a people and we as a planet just cannot get along. On a personal note, I’m still sick. Not sure what I have exactly, but it’s COVID-like, without being COVID. Pretty much I’m short of breath, fatigued and feel weak all the time. Plus I haven’t been sleeping (the breathing makes it hard), so that’s super helpful. And I might be out of a job. Haven’t heard from my boss in a while, despite my attempts. But they haven’t resumed work yet, so hopefully I’m just overreacting. All I know is that no one wants to hire someone with COVID-y symptoms, and I don’t have the energy to do much anyway. So… yeah. Awesome. Otherwise I’ve been playing the Long Dark—though I had to buy it on console (at full price even!), since the newest update kept crashing on my computer and I really love that dang game. But at least the new lack of trophies gives me something to do.

Hope y’all are doing better than I—it’s been a year, and it ain’t even half over yet. Which is… just great. Can’t wait for the election; I’m sure that’ll unite the country. Anyway, has anyone read any of these? Good, bad, ugly—let me know! Or just let me know how you’re doing, what’s up, or if you want to talk about anything else.

Oh, and my sister is posting some Dancougar stuff, to see if she wants to start an anime blog. I’ve never seen the show, but I’ve heard it’s solid. Go check it out?

And They Were Never Heard From Again – by Benedict Patrick (Review)

Love the cover, courtesy of Jenny Zemanek.

Yarnsworld #0

Novella, Fantasy, Faerie Tale

Amazon Digital; February 21, 2019

41 pages (ebook)

4 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

And They Were Never Heard From Again is a teaser tale from They mostly Come Out at Night author Benedict Patrick. This tale—or tales (if you get the omnibus version)—can act as an introduction to Yarnsworld, without getting the reader too attached to any one character or place. See that’s the thing with Yarnsworld—the stories jump around, like Discworld. So you’ll have stories set in the same world, but often none of them will share characters. This novella serves as a glimpse into the world, but don’t expect to be hearing from the denizens of this short anytime soon.

I mean, especially with the title and all.

The story centers on two brothers. The live in a little town, surrounded completely by forest. Each night the townsfolk lock themselves away in their cellars, fearful at what the night will bring. For every villager knows the stories—each one more bloody than the last. Of what lurks in the darkest corners of the wood. Of what more comes out at night. And of what happens when someone encounters one of these creatures. Hint: it’s in the title.

There is but one nightly visitor of the forest not feared: the Magpie King. Myth and legend and ruler wrapt into one, he patrols their forest searching out the lost, the vulnerable, the beasts that lurk and prowl. Each he deals with in turn. Tad loves the tales, especially the Magpie King’s. But there is one that he loves more than any other—that of the Bramble Man. The terrifying beast that Tad himself invented, and whose legend he’s spread far and wide, despite his five years. Felton cares little for these stories. Tad’s older brother is more interested in a certain farm village, beyond the forest’s reach. A certain village, with a certain girl. But when Felton whisks his little brother off on an adventure to court said girl, he forgets two important details. One, the road is long, and night is never far away. And two, sometimes stories are just stories, but other times they can take on a life of their own.

I was pretty much captivated with this tale. The setting, the dark vibe, the people that lock themselves in, the many faerie tales of Yarnsworld. I’ve never finished They Mostly Come Out at Night, but there were extenuating circumstances—when I was reading it, I quite liked the vibe, the fables, though it did reek a bit of inexperience. And They Were Never Heard From Again was just enough to make me want to dive back in, something to whet my appetite. The ending, however, I didn’t care for. But I won’t spoil it. Sufficient to say it’s a resolution I wouldn’t’ve used, and leave it there.

If you’re interested, give it the tale a try. The kindle version is free right now, so there’s nothing to lose. If you enjoy it, you can even pick up an omnibus of shorts from Yarnsworld free, direct from the author. And if you enjoy that as well, you can get into his proper novels in the world. Or, you could check out his Kickstarter on now—he’s on Book #5 of Yarnsworld, To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl—there’s even an option to pick up his complete works, if you’re in a gambling mood. Or if you’re completely sold. Otherwise, it’s cool—there’s always more out there to read!