Well, it’s December.
My expectations for Ketchup Month this year are not high. In fact, I’ve had a hard time lately focusing on anything. Think I finished four books in November: an audiobook it took me over a month to get through, one reread, a novella, and an actual novel (which again took me well over a month to finish). Additionally, I published three reviews (one of which was a DNF). As such, while I had some grand scheme in mind for this year, I’m not sure just how much of it will come to fruition.
I suppose we’ll see.
• The Light Pirate – by Lily Brooks-Dalton (12/06)
Florida is slipping away. As devastating weather patterns and rising sea levels gradually wreak havoc on the state’s infrastructure, a powerful hurricane approaches a small town on the southeastern coast. Kirby Lowe, an electrical line worker; his pregnant wife, Frida; and their two sons, Flip and Lucas, prepare for the worst. When the boys go missing just before the hurricane hits, Kirby heads out into the high winds to search for them. Left alone, Frida goes into premature labor and gives birth to an unusual child, Wanda, whom she names after the catastrophic storm that ushers her into a society closer to collapse than ever before.
As Florida continues to unravel, Wanda grows. Moving from childhood to adulthood, adapting not only to the changing landscape, but also to the people who stayed behind in a place abandoned by civilization, Wanda loses family, gains community, and ultimately, seeks adventure, love, and purpose in a place remade by nature.
Told in four parts—power, water, light, and time—The Light Pirate mirrors the rhythms of the elements and the sometimes quick, sometimes slow dissolution of the world as we know it. It is a meditation on the changes we would rather not see, the future we would rather not greet, and a call back to the beauty and violence of an untamable wilderness.
• City of Last Chances – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (12/08)
There has always been a darkness to Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse.
What will be the spark that lights the conflagration?
Despite the city’s refugees, wanderers, murderers, madmen, fanatics and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores.
Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.
City of Long Shadows.
City of Bad Decisions.
City of Last Chances.
Just the two ARCs this month, both of them out this first week. Haven’t cracked either of them yet, but hopefully I’ll get to one before the start of 2023.
Missed 2022 ARCs
• Locklands – by Robert Jackson Bennett (6/21)
The Founders #3
A god wages war—using all of humanity as its pawns—in the unforgettable conclusion to the Founders trilogy.
Sancia, Clef, and Berenice have gone up against plenty of long odds in the past. But the war they’re fighting now is one even they can’t win.
This time, they’re not facing robber-baron elites, or even an immortal hierophant, but an entity whose intelligence is spread over half the globe—a ghost in the machine that uses the magic of scriving to possess and control not just objects, but human minds.
To fight it, they’ve used scriving technology to transform themselves and their allies into an army—a society—that’s like nothing humanity has seen before. With its strength at their backs, they’ve freed a handful of their enemy’s hosts from servitude, even brought down some of its fearsome, reality-altering dreadnaughts. Yet despite their efforts, their enemy marches on—implacable. Unstoppable.
Now, as their opponent closes in on its true prize—an ancient doorway, long buried, that leads to the chambers at the center of creation itself—Sancia and her friends glimpse a chance at reaching it first, and with it, a last desperate opportunity to stop this unbeatable foe. But to do so, they’ll have to unlock the centuries-old mystery of scriving’s origins, embark on a desperate mission into the heart of their enemy’s power, and pull off the most daring heist they’ve ever attempted.
And as if that weren’t enough, their adversary might just have a spy in their ranks—and a last trick up its sleeve.
• Eversion – by Alastair Reynolds (8/02)
A dark, mind-bending SF adventure spread across time and space, Doctor Silas Coade has been tasked with keeping his crew safe as they adventure across the galaxy in search of a mysterious artifact, but as things keep going wrong, Silas soon realizes that something more sinister is at work, and this may not even be the first time it’s happened.
In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it’s up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again.
• Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence – by Rebecca F. Kuang (8/23)
1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.
Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.
Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?
Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.
From My TBR
• Black Heart, Part III: The Sacrificial Altar
Artesia #2 / Black Heart #3
As this is the third part of the story around Black Heart, I’ll just give you the blurb from Part #1. So far, I’ve quite enjoyed the story and can’t wait to finish it out!
The last survivors of the raid on the Barrow of Azharad have scattered to the four winds, each walking a separate path. For some, it is the path of noble service, as the households of great kings and warlords beckon, offering a chance to enter the fray of politics with the fate of nations on the line. For others, it is the path of secrets and magic, as the veil of the world parts to reveal the hidden truths that dwell in shadow and spirit.
And for Stjepan Black-Heart, royal cartographer and suspected murderer, it is the path of battle and sacrifice, as he is summoned to attend the household of the Grand Duke Owen Lis Red, the Earl Marshal to the High King of the Middle Kingdoms, on his latest campaign to find and kill Porloss, the Rebel Earl: an elusive quarry lurking behind an army of ruthless renegade knights in the wild hills of the Manon Mole, a land where every step could be your last, and where lie secrets best left undisturbed.
• The Winter Road – by Adrian Selby
The greatest empire of them all began with a road.
The Circle – a thousand miles of perilous forests and warring clans. No one has ever tamed such treacherous territory before, but ex-soldier Teyr Amondsen, veteran of a hundred battles, is determined to try.
With a merchant caravan protected by a crew of skilled mercenaries, Amondsen embarks on a dangerous mission to forge a road across the untamed wilderness that was once her home. But a warlord rises in the wilds of the Circle, uniting its clans and terrorising its people. Teyr’s battles may not be over yet . . .
All roads lead back to war.
• The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn – by Tyler Whitesides
Kingdom of Grit #1
Think I’ll ever actually get to any of these? I’ve been talking about Ardor Benn for at least a solid year at this point, but am no closer to reading it. Maybe now’s the time.
“I’m hiring you to steal the king’s crown.”
Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.
When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.
But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory -Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.
2nd Chance ARCs
Have you seen some of the shit that I’ve been DNFing this year? Seriously, it’s insane. The sheer amount of my most anticipated books for this year, several that I KNOW must be good, that I SWEAR are good—and I can’t get through them for one reason or another. Thus, here are a few that I burned out on (not because I hated them, but just because THIS YEAR), that I’d like to take a second shot at—one of them while 2022 is still at present. The others will have to wait.
In other news, I’m still planning a “The Best Books I DNFed, 2022 Edition” for later in the month.
• In the Shadow of Lightning – by Brian McClellan (6/21)
Glass Immortals #1
I’m not going to lie, there’s a 90% chance the book I choose will be this one. The reason I burned out on it was that I got it as an audiobook and didn’t quite love the reader. But now I have it in physical form, well…
Demir Grappo is an outcast—he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed: the very power that keeps civilization turning, godglass, is running out.
Now, Demir must find allies, old friends and rivals alike, confront the powerful guild-families who are only interested in making the most of the scraps left at the table and uncover the invisible hand that threatens the Empire. A war is coming, a war unlike any other. And Demir and his ragtag group of outcasts are the only thing that stands in the way of the end of life as the world knows it.
• The Hunger of the Gods – by John Gwynne (4/14)
Bloodsworn Saga #2
Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.
As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.
Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her.
Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.
Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.
• Empire of Exiles – by Erin M. Evans (11/08)
Books of the Usurper #1
Twenty-seven years ago, a Duke with a grudge led a ruthless coup against the empire of Semilla, killing thousands. He failed. The Duke was executed, a terrifyingly powerful sorcerer was imprisoned, and an unwilling princess disappeared.
The empire moved on.
Now, when Quill, an apprentice scribe, arrives in the capital city, he believes he’s on a simple errand for another pompous noble: fetch ancient artifacts from the magical Imperial Archives. He’s always found his apprenticeship to a lawman to be dull work. But these aren’t just any artifacts — these are the instruments of revolution, the banners under which the Duke lead his coup.
Just as the artifacts are unearthed, the city is shaken by a brutal murder that seems to have been caused by a weapon not seen since the days of rebellion. With Quill being the main witness to the murder, and no one in power believing his story, he must join the Archivists — a young mage, a seasoned archivist, and a disillusioned detective — to solve the truth of the attack. And what they uncover will be the key to saving the empire – or destroying it again.
• Age of Ash – by Daniel Abraham (2/15)
This one, more than any of the others, is a gamble. Because I did find Age of Ash a bit of a snooze. But I remember being intrigued by the story and—unlike Dead Silence—didn’t find the protagonist completely unrealistic. Not likely to try this one in 2022, but it’s possible, I suppose.
Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold. This is Alys’s.
When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.
Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.
• The Shadow Casket – by Chris Wooding (2/16/23)
Darkwater Legacy #2
The follow-up to my Book of 2018, I CANNOT WAIT to get into this one!! And at 852 pages, I’m sure to need a decent start on it…
A BAND OF REBELS.
A TRAITOR IN THEIR MIDST.
A REVOLUTION ABOUT TO BEGIN.
It’s been three years since Aren seized the Ember Blade. Three years since they struck the spark they hoped would ignite the revolution. But the flame has failed to catch. The Krodans have crushed Ossia in an iron grip of terror. The revolution seems further away than ever.
Far in the north, the Dawnwardens seek to unite the fractious clans of the Fell Folk and create a stronghold from which to retake their land. But even if they can overcome the danger of treachery from within, they still have to contend with the dreadknights. Only the druidess Vika can resist these near-unstoppable foes, and there’s only one of her.
But what if there was a weapon that could destroy the dreadknights? A weapon of such power it could turn the tide? A weapon that, if it fell into the wrong hands, might mean the end of all hope?
The Shadow Casket has returned from out of the past, and it will save or damn them all.
• Episode Thirteen – by Craig DiLouie (1/24/23)
I was actually planning to start this at the beginning of the month, but it’s taken me longer than I’d figured to finish All of Our Demise. Granted, I also had halfassed plans of reading this in October, so wtf knows.
Fade to Black is the newest hit ghost hunting reality TV show. It’s led by husband and wife team Matt and Claire Kirklin and features a dedicated crew of ghost-hunting experts.
Episode Thirteen takes them to Matt’s holy grail: the Paranormal Research Foundation. This crumbling, derelict mansion holds secrets and clues about the bizarre experiments that took place there in the 1970s. It’s also, undoubtably, haunted, and Matt hopes to use their scientific techniques and high tech gear to prove it.
But, as the house begins to slowly reveal itself to them, proof of an afterlife might not be everything Matt dreamed of.
A story told in broken pieces, in tapes, journals, correspondence, and research files, this is the story of Episode Thirteen — and how everything went horribly wrong.
• The Sanctuary – by Katrine Engberg (2/07/23)
Kørner & Werner #4
Jeppe Kørner, on leave from the police force and nursing a broken heart, has taken refuge on the island of Bornholm for the winter. Also on the island is Esther de Laurenti, a writer working on a biography on a female anthropologist with a mysterious past and coming to terms with her own crushing sense of loneliness in the wake of a dear friend’s death. When Jeppe lends a helping hand at the island’s local sawmill, he begins to realize that the island may not be the peaceful refuge it appears to be.
Back in Copenhagen, Anette Werner is tasked with leading the investigation into a severed corpse discovered on a downtown playground. As she follows the strange trail of clues, they all seem to lead back to Bornholm. With an innocent offer to check out a lead, Jeppe unwittingly finds himself in the crosshairs of a sinister mystery rooted in the past, forcing him to team up with Anette and Esther to unravel the island’s secrets before it’s too late.
• Antimatter Blues – by Edward Ashton (3/14/23)
Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive—that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life.
It’s not going to last.
It may be sunny now, but winter is coming. The antimatter that fuels the colony is running low, and Marshall wants his bomb back. If Mickey agrees to retrieve it, he’ll be giving up the only thing that’s kept his head off of the chopping block. If he refuses, he might doom the entire colony. Meanwhile, the creepers have their own worries, and they’re not going to surrender the bomb without getting something in return. Once again, Mickey finds the fate of two species resting in his hands. If something goes wrong this time, though, he won’t be coming back.
Life: it’s that thing that keeps going and going, even if you get sick and need to get off. And lately it’s been a bit rude.
My headspace has been rather poor lately, which has made it really hard to focus on anything. Sufficient to say you’ll probably hear less from me until it settles.
I’m feeling increasingly despondent about my job; I like it well enough, but my hours and shifts have been cut again, which has put me in a few niche positions that I can’t exactly advance from. In short, it’s no longer the career that I’d hoped it might become. And even if it was… I’m no longer the person that might accept it. Something has to change. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what it is I want, so it’ll take some time and some patience—two things that are typically my strong suits, yet at the moment… I’m not finding them easy. I’ve been trying to figure out what I want since I lost my archaeology gig five years back.
I’m just getting tired of waiting. Searching. Coming up empty.
Geez that was depressing—sorry bout that. Been in and out of it more and more lately. I really need a change. We’ll just have to wait and see what that is exactly.
Dunno what the future holds for me exactly, but I know I’m going to have to explore a bit more before I find my place in it.
Note: Can you tell I was in two rather different moods when I wrote and edited this? I stopped reading it after a bit, as I figured that if I kept on, I’d just end up rewriting everything.
So, how’s your year been? Or your November? Any radical plans for December? Any ideas for what I want to do with my life? I’d love to hear.