August 2021

To say we have a busy month is an understatement. This month is so packed with releases that I forgot about a few of the ARCs I’d received. I mean, there is NO WAY I’m finishing them all this month. Heck, I might not get to them all before the end of the year. So there will be some picking and choosing which to read—which is something I really like to avoid. But, oh well. Can’t avoid it sometimes.

ARC

The Godstone – by Violette Malan (8/03)

Untitled Series #1 / Standalone

Goodreads

Fenra Lowens has been a working Practitioner, using the magic of healing ever since she graduated from the White Court and left the City to live in the Outer Modes. When one of her patients, Arlyn Albainil, is summoned to the City to execute the final testament of a distant cousin, she agrees to help him. Arlyn suspects the White Court wants to access his cousin’s Practitioner’s vault. Arlyn can’t ignore the summons: he knows the vault holds an artifact so dangerous he can’t allow it to be freed.

Fenra quickly figures out that there is no cousin, that Arlyn himself is the missing Practitioner, the legendary Xandra Albainil, rumored to have made a Godstone with which he once almost destroyed the world. Sealing away the Godstone left Arlyn powerless and ill, and he needs Fenra to help him deal with the possibly sentient artifact before someone else finds and uses it.

Along the way they encounter Elvanyn Karamisk, an old friend whom Arlyn once betrayed. Convinced that Arlyn has not changed, and intends to use Fenra to recover the Godstone and with it all his power, Elvanyn joins them to keep Fenra safe and help her destroy the artifact.

Shards of Earth – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (8/03 US)

Final Architects #1

Goodreads

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

Devil’s Fjord – by David Hewson (8/05)

Faroe Islands Mystery #1

Goodreads

If the new District Sheriff, Tristan Haraldsen, thought moving to a remote village on the island of Vagar would be the chance for a peaceful life with his wife Elsebeth, his first few weeks in office swiftly correct him of that notion.

Provoked into taking part in the village’s whale hunt against his will, Haraldsen blunders badly, and in the ensuing chaos two local boys go missing. Blaming himself, Haraldsen dives into the investigation and soon learns that the boys are not the first to have gone missing on Vagar.

As Tristan and Elsebeth become increasingly ensnared by the island’s past, they realise its wild beauty hides an altogether uglier and sinister truth.

Paper & Blood – by Kevin Hearne (8/10)

Ink & Sigil #2

Goodreads

There’s only one Al MacBharrais: Though other Scotsmen may have dramatic mustaches and a taste for fancy cocktails, Al also has a unique talent. He’s a master of ink and sigil magic. In his gifted hands, paper and pen can work wondrous spells.

But Al isn’t quite alone: He is part of a global network of sigil agents who use their powers to protect the world from mischievous gods and strange monsters. So when a fellow agent disappears under sinister circumstances in Australia, Al leaves behind the cozy pubs and cafes of Glasgow and travels to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to solve the mystery.

The trail to his colleague begins to pile up with bodies at alarming speed, so Al is grateful his friends have come to help—especially Nadia, his accountant who moonlights as a pit fighter. Together with a whisky-loving hobgoblin known as Buck Foi and the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, along with his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck, Al and Nadia will face down the wildest wonders Australia—and the supernatural world—can throw at them, and confront a legendary monster not seen in centuries.

Bloodless – by Preston & Child (8/17)

Agent Pendergast #20

Goodreads

A fabulous heist:
On the evening of November 24, 1971, D. B. Cooper hijacked Flight 305—Portland to Seattle—with a fake bomb, collected a ransom of $200,000, and then parachuted from the rear of the plane, disappearing into the night…and into history.

A brutal crime steeped in legend and malevolence:
Fifty years later, Agent Pendergast takes on a bizarre and gruesome case: in the ghost-haunted city of Savannah, Georgia, bodies are found with no blood left in their veins—sowing panic and reviving whispered tales of the infamous Savannah Vampire.

A case like no other:
As the mystery rises along with the body count, Pendergast and his partner, Agent Coldmoon, race to understand how—or if—these murders are connected to the only unsolved skyjacking in American history. Together, they uncover not just the answer…but an unearthly evil beyond all imagining.

The Pariah – by Anthony Ryan (8/24)

Covenant of Steel #1

Goodreads

Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier’s life in the king’s army.

Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine’s rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?

Twenty-Five to Life – by R.W.W. Greene (8/24)

Standalone

Goodreads

Julie Riley is two years too young to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and what does it matter? She’s over-educated, under-employed, and kept mostly numb by her pharma emplant. Her best friend, who she’s mostly been interacting with via virtual reality for the past decade, is part of the colony mission to Proxima Centauri. Plus, the world is coming to an end. So, there’s that.

When Julie’s mother decides it’s time to let go of the family home in a failing suburb and move to the city to be closer to work and her new beau, Julie decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs, illegally, hoping to find and hide with the Volksgeist, a loose-knit culture of tramps, hoboes, senior citizens, artists, and never-do-wells who have elected to ride out the end of the world in their campers and converted vans, constantly on the move over the back roads of America.

Inhibitor Phase – by Alastair Reynolds (8/26 EU)

Revelation Space Universe

Goodreads

Miguel de Ruyter is a man with a past.

Fleeing the ‘wolves’ – the xenocidal alien machines known as Inhibitors – he has protected his family and community from attack for forty years, sheltering in the caves of an airless, battered world called Michaelmas. The slightest hint of human activity could draw the wolves to their home, to destroy everything … utterly. Which is how Miguel finds himself on a one-way mission with his own destructive mandate: to eliminate a passing ship, before it can bring unwanted attention down on them.

Only something goes wrong.

There’s a lone survivor.

And she knows far more about Miguel than she’s letting on . . .

Ranging from the depths of space to the deeps of Pattern Juggler waters, from nervous, isolated communities to the ruins of empire, this is a stealthy space opera from an author at the top of his game.

Other Releases

Nolyn – by Michael J. Sullivan (8/03)

Rise and Fall #1

Goodreads

After more than five hundred years of exile, the heir to the empyre is wary about his sudden reassignment to active duty on the Goblin War’s front lines. His assignment to rescue an outpost leads to a dead-end canyon deep inside enemy territory, and his suspicion turns to dread when he discovers the stronghold does not exist. But whoever went to the trouble of planning his death to look like a casualty of war did not know he would be assigned to the Seventh Sikaria Auxiliary Squadron. In the depths of an unforgiving jungle, a legend is about to be born, and the world of Elan will never be the same.

Music

Not aware of any interesting releases this month, but I don’t follow music like I obsess about books—often I don’t pay attention to what’s happening until they’re already out. So here are a couple songs that came out last week. The first is by German alt-rock band Flash Forward, the second by Italian EDM-Celtic-Folk outfit The Sidh. While Syl is a good song and all, if you’ve never thought “what would happen if I added bagpipes to EDM” then Utopia is a must-listen!

btw I’ve noooo idea what’s going on in this video, so don’t ask me, eh?

Gaming

Still working on Disco Elysium as I had a system crash which wiped out all my saves from all my games and I had to start over from scratch. Which… not ideal. It’s taken me some time to get back into it. So four days into my first impression of Disco Elysium I had to restart it. “Disappointment” is an understatement. And not just for this game, but about 90% of my library on the PS4. I have a few online backups but for the most part it’s all gone.

Anyway, I’ve taken to some other Indie games to distract me—a number of which I’m working on posting something about, but we’ll see how it goes. I’ve been playing through Islanders, This War of Mine, Northgard, Fez and Hyper Light Drifter based entirely on what I feel like at any given time. Hopefully more to come on these later!

Currently Reading

The Godstone – by Violette Malan

So far this has been a good read—I’ve some issues with it, I must admit, but I’ll probably still recommend it (at least, judging by how it’s going right now I would). I’m at ~70% mark so probably no review out by the 3rd, though hopefully it won’t be too long a wait.

A Gathering of Ravens – by Scott Oden

This month’s audiobook is sure an uplifting one. A well reviewed grimdark fantasy, it’s something I’ve been after for a while now. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this is the right time for it. The world over here is looking slightly bleak, and this isn’t exactly going to cheer me up. But then, who says that’s what I’m after?

Life

Pretty apocalyptic out west. I’ll have to remember to include a photo later this week. There’s a major drought going on, and recently we’ve been plagued with the fires that have been running rampant in California since last year. The only reason it isn’t worst is that winter is a thing here. But as fire season rolls around in 2021 we find that fire season actually started a month earlier than usual and likely won’t be over any time soon. Maybe not even after the first snow—which I genuinely pray happens in August this year. Last year first snow waited til September 5th, but this year we need it more.

The smoke has been awful. In the unhealthy range straight for the last two weeks, it doesn’t look to be letting up any time soon either. Not a great time to work outside. But with half our staff leaving on August 1st, it’s just going to get busier. And I’m behind on reading as it is. With the nine releases this month I’m anticipating—all of which I have copies for—…well, it’s going to be a challenge for me to finish probably around three. At the moment I’d guess the Godstone, the Pariah and… maybe Paper & Blood? I’ve no idea. I guess we’ll see.

And I didn’t even mention COVID yet. Actually, I’m going to skip it. It ain’t looking good—enough said.

Any of these or other releases you’re excited about? Books, games, music, whatever really. How’s the smoke where you live? Anything else new—let me know!

The Beautiful World of Books – The Expanse

After last week’s post, the absolutely lovely cover of Leviathan Wakes had me thinking of the other special edition Expanse covers I’d seen. Specifically, those from Subterranean Press. Any one of these eight is a trophy in its own right. If you’ve somehow managed to collect them all however…

Leviathan Wakes & Caliban’s War

These two are the only I can’t find spreads for, but still these lovely covers retails for $75 a piece, $350 if you were ambitious enough to wrangle a lettered edition. I absolutely adore this one of Leviathan Wakes (Caliban’s War features just a little too much grey for my tastes)—but at more than twice the price of that copy last week (and, to be fair, the Subterranean one was out of stock before I’d ever heard of it), it likely wouldn’t’ve happened. Regrettably both are out of print (along with everything else on this list), but fortunately you can still pick up both for the low, low price of $1325.

Abbadon’s Gate

One of the next pair at $80 retail, Abbadon’s Gate gives us what must be our first good look at the Rocinate in all her glory. Wait, was Rocinate a girl horse or…? No. No, I’m pretty sure it was a boy horse. So here’s the Rocinate (probably) in all his glory. The cheapest I could find this one used was $500, so… let me know how it looks, eh?

Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn’s cover of course features the race to the space gate, pictured in all its glory. At least… I think that’s what’s going on. Actually lol I’m not too sure what we’re burning towards or away from, but… IT. LOOKS. AMAZING. The cheapest copy of this I could find would’ve taken $400, unless by some miracle you got it new, which would’ve saved you $320.

Nemesis Games

Another lovely and horribly expensive piece of art that I’ll never own. Can you tell I wrote this one last?

Babylon’s Ashes

Babylon’s Ashes contains what’s likely our second incredible view of the Rocinate is also probably my favorite of all 8 currently out. This is actually one that I’d consider buying—amazing, considering it continues the trend of $85 books. I couldn’t actually find a copy of this used at under $600, though I did come across a metal (and probably unlicensed) poster for just under $60. Unfortunately, it’s a wee bit small (and unlicensed) so I ultimately decided to skip it.

Persepolis Rising

Having not yet read this one, I cannot even guess what might be going on here—but I can wildly speculate! Well hmmmm… it looks like we have two kinds of spaceships shaped like fish. Probably turned that way by the protomolecule as part of some evil plan involving the universe as a fish bowl. Maybe. Anyway, originally retailing at $85 US, this was a piece of art worthy of framing. If you wanted the signed, lettered edition, I did find one used on eBay for $395—a very slight increase on its original $350 price tag.

Tiamat’s Wrath

Again, I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it reminds me of some kinda platformer. Lovely picture though—almost looks like a photo! Yet another initially retailing at $85—these are all a lot is the message. Waaaaay too much for my tastes, sadly, as the entire series (if you went and bought them them upon release) signed and bound in cloth would’ve run you $650.

They’re all absolutely gorgeous, though. I kind of want to print them out into some kinda collage. Doubt I’ll ever get that far either, but it’s a more worthy (and waaaay cheaper) goal. Assuming the final Expanse book maintains the others’ price tags, the entire 9 book series bound in leather, lettered, and housed in a custom traycase would’ve run you $3150 if you ordered each directly upon release. If you tried to buy them all now, however… you’d be lucky to complete your set at $5k. Which… wow.

The Beautiful World of Books – Leviathan Wakes

Beautiful World of Books is a post showcasing a certain special, limited, anniversary, or just particularly eye-catching cover that I love—even if it’s not one I have. Yet. In fact, I don’t own most of the copies that I’ve planned to feature here over the next handful of weeks (or however long this new attempt at something from me lasts), but there’s still time for that to change~

Leviathan Wakes was released just a little over a decade ago, back in June 2011. The author, James S.A. Corey, is actually a collaboration between authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. An amazing space opera, it initially featured the exploits of James Holden and the crew of the Canterbury, as well as the detective stylings of Joe Miller—a detective of Ceres searching for the missing Julie Mao. In the interests of spoilers, I won’t address any more, but if you haven’t read it in the last ten years, well… you really should. REALLY. SHOULD.

Since it’s initial release, Leviathan Wakes has spawned a literary series—The Expanse—which is set to end this year with the release of Leviathan Falls in November, as well as a television series, The Expanse, due to enter its 6th season in… I dunno, probably next year. Needless to say, I am woefully behind on both. I’ve read up through Book 5 (Nemesis Games) in the written series and watched through Season 2 of the show—both of which are quite good.

Now, I love the original cover—its use of the spacecraft and asteroids set against the deep planetary blue, while the light from a certain star shines brightly in the background—but what is an anniversary for if not a new beginning? The original cover is great, but a new take on it is always appreciated. Hell, even if the new one sucks, you’ve always got the tried and true version to fall back on.

Anyway, in homage to the original release being a decade past, and the series set to reach its conclusion later this same year, Orbit is releasing a special anniversary edition of Leviathan Wakes on September 7th.

And I WANT IT.

It’s just… look at those colors! I find the violet and blue against the blackness of space to be haunting; a promise of mystery and adventure amongst the pinpricks of stars all around. The pages itself (well, their edges—can’t remember the term for that) bear a matching violet, all of which promises a lovely adventure just within its pages. Which I know for a fact, having read the book three times to date.

Should you be keen to own your own of these beauties, the pre-order price is currently set at just over $30. Despite my desire to own one of these meself, I’ll probably wait til it falls in price a bit—at least to $25 or so.

What do you think of the cover? Is it your favorite in the series, or do you fancy some other one? Maybe make a note of it, because I just might revisit this thought in the very near future 😉

July 2021

June was a super busy month in which I accomplished waaay less than I would’ve liked, but as the summer marches on it doesn’t appear that I’ll be getting much more done in July. I guess it’s good that I don’t have a ton of ARCs for this month (of which I’ve already finished one, and am a quarter through another), so maybe I can catch up a little on last month while preparing for the slightly more eventful August beyond.

ARC

Death and Croissants – by Ian Moore (7/01)

Follet Valley Mysteries #1

GoodreadsReview

Richard is a middle-aged Englishman who runs a B&B in the fictional Val de Follet in the Loire Valley. Nothing ever happens to Richard, and really that’s the way he likes it.

One day, however, one of his older guests disappears, leaving behind a bloody handprint on the wallpaper. Another guest, the exotic Valérie, persuades a reluctant Richard to join her in investigating the disappearance.

Richard remains a dazed passenger in the case until things become really serious and someone murders Ava Gardner, one of his beloved hens … and you don’t mess with a fellow’s hens!

A Desert Torn Asunder – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (7/13 US • 7/22 UK)

Song of the Shattered Sands #6

Goodreads

The plans of the desert gods are coming to fruition. Meryam, the deposed queen of Qaimir, hopes to raise the buried elder god, Ashael, an event that would bring ruin to the desert.

Çeda and Emre sail for their ancestral home to bring the traitor, Hamid, to justice. To their horror, they discover that the desert tribes have united under Hamid’s banner. Their plan? A holy crusade to annihilate Sharakhai, a thing long sought by many in the tribes. In Sharakhai, meanwhile, the blood mage, Davud, examines the strange gateway between worlds, hoping to find a way to close it. And King Ihsan hunts for Meryam, but always finds himself two steps behind.

When Meryam raises Ashael, all know the end is near. Ashael means to journey to the land that was denied to him an age ago, no matter the cost to the desert. It now falls to Çeda and her unlikely assortment of allies to find a way to unite not only the desert tribes and the people of Sharakhai, but the city’s invaders as well. Even if they do, stopping Ashael will cost them dearly, perhaps more than all are willing to pay.

Below the Edge of Darkness – by Edith Widder (7/27)

Goodreads

Edith Widder grew up wanting to become a marine biologist. But after complications from surgery caused her to go temporarily blind while at university, she became fascinated by light, and her focus turned to bioluminescence. On her first visit to the deep ocean, in an experimental diving suit that took her to a depth of 250 metres, she turned off the suitʼs lights and witnessed breathtaking explosions of bioluminescent activity. Why was there so much light down there?

Below the Edge of Darkness takes readers deep into the mysteries of the oceans as Widder investigates one of nature’s most widely used forms of communication. She reveals hidden worlds and a dazzling menagerie of creatures, from microbes to leviathans—many never before seen or, like the giant squid, never before filmed. Alongside Widder, we experience life-and-death equipment malfunctions, and breakthroughs in technology and understanding, set against a growing awareness of the deterioration of the world’s largest and least understood ecosystem.

This engaging memoir, imbued with optimism and a sense of wonder, is an adventure story as well as a science story. Edith Widder shows us how exploration is the key to conserving the oceans—and our future on this planet.

Other Releases

Empire’s Ruin – by Brian Staveley (7/06)

Ashes of the Unhewn Throne #1

Goodreads

The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used.

In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates.

But time is running out. Deep within the southern reaches of the empire and ancient god-like race has begun to stir.

What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever. If they can survive.

Half Sick of Shadows – by Laura Sebastian (7/06)

Goodreads

Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come–for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future.

On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends–countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change fate–and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

A Psalm for the Well-Built – by Becky Chambers (7/13)

Monk & Robot #1

Goodreads

It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools.
Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again.
Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Purchases

Lord of Ashes – by Richard Ford

Steelhaven Book #3

Goodreads

FIGHT TO THE DEATH…

The queen of Steelhaven has grown in strength. Taking up her dead father’s sword, she must defend the city from the dread warlord Amon Tugha and his blood-thirsty army now at the gates. A vicious, unrelenting four-day battle ensues, the most perilous yet.

…OR BOW TO THE ENEMY

No side is immune from danger as all hell breaks loose, with the threat of coups and the unleashing of the deadliest and darkest magick. Loyalty, strength and cunning will be put to test in the quest for victory. What fate awaits the free states?

Hard Reboot – by Django Wexler

Goodreads

Kas is a junior researcher on a fact-finding mission to old Earth. But when a con-artist tricks her into wagering a large sum of money belonging to her university on the outcome of a manned robot arena battle she becomes drawn into the seedy underworld of old Earth politics and state-sponsored battle-droid prizefights.

Is it time to get back to the books, yet?

Music

Make It Through – Ends With a Bullet (7/01)

Ends With a Bullet is a Swedish metalcore band from Gothenburg (metalcore being a blend of metal and hardcore punk). Make It Through is their sixth album since being formed in 2013, and they’re most notable for releasing five good (to my ear anyway) albums in the last five years.

fever – Against the Current (7/23)

Against the Current is an American pop-rock band from New York. Around since 2011, fever is their third EP and fifth album altogether.

Gaming

Disco Elysium

Developed by ZA/UM

10-15 hours in / 8% Trophy Completion

I’ve been playing quite a lot of Disco Elysium lately. An RPG where you take control of a down on his luck detective currently at the end of an all week bender, the game would have you redeem him, double down on being an asshole, or just do what you can to survive til the end of the investigation. The investigation itself centers on an apparent lynching—a dead body hanging from the lone tree in a war-torn neighborhood. The fictional Revachol is a bit reminiscent of the setting from This War of Mine, albeit five or ten years after the events of the game. A city recovering from a war that decimated the local economy, scarred its citizens, wrecked its infrastructure. After the war ended and its final king died, Revachol is a district on the precipice of change, and in need of a new identity. Throughout it you will have the option to deal with various thoughts and ideas, either subscribing to certain political, socio-economic, or racist theories, or turnign your nose up on the lot altogether. Doing nothing might make it next to impossible to do your job however, so a clever officer might just pick one side—or many. The locals don’t care what you want or why, and mostly treat your presence with disbelief, sarcasm, or outright disgust. Whether or not you have any real power to make an arrest is beside the point—the investigation will lead somewhere, it’s up to you to find out where.

Disco Elysium is a game where the outcome relies on a potential dice roll, making almost anything possible. Or impossible. In my fist game I died a lot. I set my strength/endurance to base 1, which basically meant that whenever I failed a check I had the potential to die. Which I did—a lot. Before I got out of my hotel room (where you start the game), I’d died no less than three times. I reached for my tie on the ceiling fan and had a heart-attack. The next time I tried to turn the fan off first and suffered another. I saw my reflection in the mirror and had a third. Since then I’ve learnt a bit, started a new game (my system crashed and needed resetting—which cost me all my save data for all my games, which was super disappointing), but still died a lot. Disco Elysium is full of humor, whether it be outrageous or dark in nature, but it also makes you think. There’s a decent amount of political theory, racism, sexism, and just human nature, all competing for your attention. The voice acting is mostly strong—with some (like the narrator) featuring amazing performances—though others are just hilariously bad. Obviously I haven’t finished the game yet (hell, I haven’t gotten through four days yet), but I’ve quite enjoyed my time with it and feel like I can almost recommend it already based on the fact that I had to drop it and start all over and somehow not lose interest.

Currently Reading

A Desert Torn Asunder – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

The conclusion to the Shattered Sands is here! I actually lost track of time or else I’d’ve probably started this one sooner! The Song of Shattered Sands has been one of my favorite fantasy series of the past five years and I cannot wait to dig further into the final book. But so far, so good!

Outpost – by W. Michael Gear

Not sure how the Donovan series escaped my notice until now, but here we are. Only recently it made it onto my radar, and I took my sweet time locating a copy of Outpost (found one at the public library, which has only recently reopened—yay!). But now that I’ve started it I can’t wait to get into the story. Unfortunately it has to compete with my love of the Shattered Sands, and so is on the backburner for now, but hopefully I’ll get into it soon enough!

Thanks to Tammy (Books, Bones & Buffy) and Mogsy (Bibliosanctum) for the rec!

Life

So, it’s been hot these last few weeks, eh? We’ve had about 6 of the past 10 days over 100˚F and forecasting for a few more in the coming week. This, combined with the lack of any humidity or precipitation, makes for a good oven-like atmosphere. Fire weather is here already. And as usual people are ignoring all the firework warnings as we approach the 4th of July. I hate the 4th, personally. Fireworks have caused enough fires here that I’ve started to associate the sound of them, the smell of gunpowder with the sight of those flames rolling over the ridgeline burning towards me. The destruction of Lytton just this last week has done nothing to ease this feeling. I’ve only been evacuated 2-3 times because of fires here, but they’re something that continue to haunt my dreams. So fireworks make me cringe, make me panic, make me stress. I HATE THEM.

Um, anyway… the heat has made outside sports super fun to suffer through, as our events carry on despite the high temperatures. My job has gotten decidedly less enjoyable lately, but that’s a rant for another time. One per post, eh?

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. Want to talk about the books or games or music aspect of July? I would love to hear from you! I don’t really want to talk about fireworks, politics, or people. I do occasionally need to vent about them, but I really don’t need to follow-up on it. Unless someone really wants to. I’m not the only one who needs to vent, after all.

June 2021

ARCs

Rabbits – by Terry Miles (6/08)

Goodreads

Rabbits is a mysterious alternate reality game so vast it uses our global reality as its canvas. Since the game first started in 1959, ten iterations have appeared and nine winners have been declared. Their identities are unknown. So is their reward, which is whispered to be NSA or CIA recruitment, vast wealth, immortality, or perhaps even the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe itself. But the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes. Players have died in the past–and the body count is rising.

And now the eleventh round is about to begin. Enter K–a Rabbits obsessive who has been trying to find a way into the game for years. That path opens when K is approached by billionaire Alan Scarpio, the alleged winner of the sixth iteration. Scarpio says that something has gone wrong with the game and that K needs to fix it before Eleven starts or the whole world will pay the price.

Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing. Two weeks after that, K blows the deadline and Eleven begins. And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

The Coward – by Stephen Aryan (6/08)

Goodreads

Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of grizzled fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe.

Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer’s life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich’s abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more.

For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He’s not a hero – he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he’s a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone…

The Jasmine Throne – Tasha Suri (6/08)

Goodreads

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

Artifact Space – by Miles Cameron (6/24)

Goodreads

Midshipper Marca Nbaro has achieved the near-impossible. She’s made it from an orphanage to the Athens—one of the incomparable Greatships—escaping her upbringing and seizing a new life for herself among the stars.

All it took was thousands of hours in simulators, dedication, and pawning or selling every scrap of her old life in order to forge a new one.

But though she’s made her way onboard with faked papers, leaving her old life—and scandals—behind isn’t so easy.

She may have just combined all the dangers of her former life, with all the perils of the new…

Other Releases

For the Wolf – by Hannah Whitten (6/01)

Goodreads

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Broken Web – by Lori M. Lee (6/15)

Goodreads

The Soulless has woken from his centuries-long imprisonment. Now, he lurks in the Dead Wood recovering his strength, while Sirscha and her allies journey east to the shaman empire of Nuvalyn. Everyone believes she is a soulguide—a savior—but Sirscha knows the truth. She’s a monster, a soulrender like the Soulless, and if anyone discovers the truth, she’ll be executed.

But there’s nothing Sirscha won’t risk to stop the shaman responsible for the rot that’s killing her best friend. While the Soulless is formidable, like all shamans, his magic must be channeled through a familiar. If Sirscha can discover what—or who—that is, she might be able to cut him off from his power.

With Queen Meilyr bent on destroying the magical kingdoms, Sirscha finds herself caught between a war brewing in the east and the Soulless waiting in the west. She should be trying to unite what peoples she can to face their common enemies, but instead, her hunt for clues about the Soulless leads to a grim discovery, forcing Sirscha to question who her enemies really are.

Other ARCs

These two copies were very nicely provided by the publisher, despite my less than glowing review of Book #1, Witchsign. I’m curious to see if the story’s gotten any more coherent, but were both released a year or more ago, it might take me a little to get to them.

Stormtide – by Den Patrick (5/30/2019)

Goodreads

Steiner, blacksmith, hero, has taken a hammer to the Empire, freeing the dead and children with witchsign alike from their fiery prison. Now he plans to finish what he started.

Kimi, dragon-speaker, princess, must seek her father’s court and win the support of his armies before news of her escape dooms her people.

Silverdust, ancient, dead, journeys to the heart of the empire as a prisoner – to meet the Emperor for what he hopes will be the final time.

Kjellrun, witch, killer, still reeling from the loss of her uncle when she is ripped from her family, fears this power within her. But she must harness that force – and soon – if she hopes to survive.

Scattered by fortune, plagued by danger, Steiner’s crew rise against the dark rule that has cost them so much.

The old gods are waking.

The dragons are free.
May gods help those who bear the sign of the witch.

Nightfall – by Den Patrick (8/20/2020)

Goodreads

The sky is filled with dragons: the people are ready to burn the regime to the ground. The seas churn with monsters and the tide is changing: revolution is coming.

Leaders, all – and all are desperate. For the Emperor will not give up easily. He will rule – and he cares not if his subjects are alive… or if they are dead.

Worlds and outlooks collide, wars begin and lives will end in this spectacular finale by a new master in the fantasy genre. The stakes have never been higher in the roaring conclusion to the beloved Ashen Torment series.

Purchases

Purchases this month include a pair of used books, another bought with of audiobook credits, and then a lone ebook that I keep forgetting I own.

The Corroded Man – by Adam Christopher

Goodreads

Empress Emily Kaldwin leads a dual life, fulfilling her duties as empress while training with her father, Corvo Attano, mastering the arts of stealth, combat, and assassination.

A strange, shrouded figure appears in Dunwall, seeming to possess powers once wielded by the assassin known as Daud. Faced with the possibility that their deadliest foe has returned, Emily and Corvo plunge headlong into a life-and-death race against time. If they fail to learn the truth about this mysterious enemy, the result would be destruction on an unimaginable scale.

Persepolis Rising – by James S.A. Corey

Goodreads

In the thousand-sun network of humanity’s expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace.

In the vast space between Earth and Jupiter, the inner planets and belt have formed a tentative and uncertain alliance still haunted by a history of wars and prejudices. On the lost colony world of Laconia, a hidden enemy has a new vision for all of humanity and the power to enforce it.

New technologies clash with old as the history of human conflict returns to its ancient patterns of war and subjugation. But human nature is not the only enemy, and the forces being unleashed have their own price. A price that will change the shape of humanity — and of the Rocinante — unexpectedly and forever…

Nolyn – by Michael J. Sullivan (8/03/21)

Goodreads

I got Nolyn via Kickstarter, and I kinda keep forgetting I have it. Huge thanks to Rebecca at Powder & Page for reminding me!

After more than five hundred years of exile, the heir to the empyre is wary about his sudden reassignment to active duty on the Goblin War’s front lines. His assignment to rescue an outpost leads to a dead-end canyon deep inside enemy territory, and his suspicion turns to dread when he discovers the stronghold does not exist. But whoever went to the trouble of planning his death to look like a casualty of war did not know he would be assigned to the Seventh Sikaria Auxiliary Squadron. In the depths of an unforgiving jungle, a legend is about to be born, and the world of Elan will never be the same.

Smoke and Ashes – by Abir Mukherjee

Goodreads

India, 1921.

Haunted by his memories of the Great War, Captain Sam Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force.

When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den and revealing his presence there could cost him his career.

With the aid of his quick-witted Indian Sergeant Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead.

Gates of the Dead – by James A. Moore

Goodreads

Behold: the final entry in the Tides of War trilogy.

Brogan McTyre started a war with the gods, and he’s going to end it. Raging gods have laid waste to the Five Kingdoms. Only Torema remains, swollen with millions of refugees. Their last hope lies in fleeing by sea, but as storms tear at the coast, even King Opar can’t muster enough ships for them all. Brogan and his warriors must fight the He-Kisshi to reach the Gateway, the sole portal for gods to enter the mortal world – and the only place where they can be killed. But the forces of creation have been unleashed, and they’ll destroy the world to reshape it.

Music

Earlier this month I snagged Soul Extract’s upcoming album on Bandcamp for $1! Even though I typically stream my music, I do love to support the artists I very much enjoy. And well… $1? I mean, really. The artwork is rather nice until you realize it’s just recycled and has been used for not only a number of Soul Extract’s previous releases, but also countless others from the record label.

Gaming

Bit of a down period for gaming. I just haven’t been able to focus lately. So I’ve been playing a bit more of the Long Dark, my favorite survival game. I’ve been working on the sandbox mode again, so there’s no story to distract me/keep me from listening to audiobooks while I’m playing. I’ve been exploring the new areas in the world—now there’re 11! When I started playing this, there was one. It’s amazing how far this game has come since then.

Anyone have any recommendations for anything new to play?

Life

No lessons this time around, sorry. Or… you’re welcome? Summer is just around the corner and as such, the weather here is completely fucked. In the last week it’s snowed once, rained thrice, and somehow had time to hit 90˚F (32˚C).

In other news, I’ve been pulled off all my shifts and written out of the upcoming schedule. Why? I’ve no idea. My boss seems to have picked Memorial Day weekend to do this, which means I have to suffer through four days of anxiety and worrying what I did exactly. Or… maybe it’s just a mistake? Fingers crossed for that—I LOATHE job hunting even more than I resent the higher-ups for the way they handled this mess so far.

Anyway with the lack of sleep and lack of peace and lack of other stuff that I’d remember if not for the lack of sleep, I’m fraying a little around the edges. Hopefully I’ve edited this well enough to avoid any egregious mistakes, spelling errors, or swear words.

May 2021

ARCs

The Sword Falls – by A.J. Smith (5/01)

Goodreads

A man of the Dawn Claw will be the Always King. It will ever be so. They will always rule… but they will not always lead.

Prince Oliver Dawn Claw, heir to the Kingdom of the Four Claws, is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand as he waits for his father to die. Away from home, with few allies, and too many enemies, he faces a new and otherworldly threat to the Eastron from beneath the sea. Alliances break and masks fall, as the Dark Brethren reveal their true master.

Meanwhile, Adeline Brand, called the Alpha Wolf, refuses to wait, and becomes the edge of the sword that swings back at the Dreaming God. Assembling allies and crushing resistance, she enters a fight she doesn’t know if she can win, as the sea begins to rise.

Shadow of the Gods – by John Gwynne (5/04)

Goodreads

After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrið.

Now a new world is rising, where power-hungry jarls feud and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power for those braveor desperateenough to seek them out.

Now, as whispers of war echo across the mountains and fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods . . .

Within Without – by Jeff Noon (5/11)

Goodreads

In the year 1960, rock and roll star Vince Craven hires private eye John Nyquist in his strangest case yet: to track down Vince’s image, long lost in a city of million borders.

The Apocalypse Seven – by Gene Doucette (5/25)

Goodreads

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whatever.

The whateverpocalypse. That’s what Touré, a twenty-something Cambridge coder, calls it after waking up one morning to find himself seemingly the only person left in the city. Once he finds Robbie and Carol, two equally disoriented Harvard freshmen, he realizes he isn’t alone, but the name sticks: Whateverpocalypse. But it doesn’t explain where everyone went. It doesn’t explain how the city became overgrown with vegetation in the space of a night. Or how wild animals with no fear of humans came to roam the streets.

Add freakish weather to the mix, swings of temperature that spawn tornadoes one minute and snowstorms the next, and it seems things can’t get much weirder. Yet even as a handful of new survivors appear—Paul, a preacher as quick with a gun as a Bible verse; Win, a young professional with a horse; Bethany, a thirteen-year-old juvenile delinquent; and Ananda, an MIT astrophysics adjunct—life in Cambridge, Massachusetts gets stranger and stranger.

The self-styled Apocalypse Seven are tired of questions with no answers. Tired of being hunted by things seen and unseen. Now, armed with curiosity, desperation, a shotgun, and a bow, they become the hunters. And that’s when things truly get weird.

The Lights of Prague – by Nicole Jarvis (5/25)

Goodreads

I got granted this one just a couple days ago, requesting it after reading Rebecca’s review on Powder & Page.

In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of otherworldly creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – a secret elite of monster hunters whose light staves off the darkness each night. Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavice, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek find solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischerová– a widow with secrets of her own.

When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’-the-wisp, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travelers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners.

After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavice that could see them unleash terror on the daylight world, Domek finds himself in a race against those who aim to twist alchemical science for their own dangerous gain.

Other Releases

Project Hail Mary – by Andy Weir (5/04)

Goodreads

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission – and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crew mates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realises that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Son of the Storm – by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (5/11)

Goodreads

In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.

But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire.

Hard Reboot – by Django Wexler (5/25)

Goodreads

Kas is a junior researcher on a fact-finding mission to old Earth. But when a con-artist tricks her into wagering a large sum of money belonging to her university on the outcome of a manned robot arena battle she becomes drawn into the seedy underworld of old Earth politics and state-sponsored battle-droid prizefights.

Is it time to get back to the books, yet?

The Blacktongue Thief – by Christoper Buehlman (5/27)

Goodreads

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

Purchases

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn – by Tyler Whitesides

Goodreads

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.

The Body Library – by Jeff Noon

Goodreads

In a city dissolving into an infected sprawl of ideas, where words come to life and reality is contaminated by stories, John Nyquist wakes up in a room with a dead body… The dead man’s impossible whispers plunge him into a murder investigation like no other. Clues point him deeper into an unfolding story infesting its participants as reality blurs between place and genre.

Only one man can hope to put it all back together into some kind of order, enough that lives can be saved… That man is Nyquist, and he is lost.

The Traitor God – by Cameron Johnson

Goodreads

After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magician Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the sorcerers who rule the city. He failed. Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods—Walker will burn them all if he has to. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s killed a god…

Music

I gave it a once-over but couldn’t find anything I was interested in releasing this month. Now, there’ll probably be some album releasing that I missed, and there will doubtless be singles dropping, but for the moment I’ll just share a couple of my favorite singles from April.

Both are from Europe, I think. Smash into Pieces is Swedish. I’m not sure where Cosmodrome is from, but they speak English in what sounds like a Slavic tongue so… Russian? Lithuanian? They actually have a single out on May 1st, so I’ll probably feature it sometime next week assuming it’s any good.

A brand new Starset single came out while I was editing this piece. It’s a good song (not their best, but), a bit of a callback to Vessels. Not Transmissions level good, but not bad by any rate.

Currently Reading

A Necessary Evil – by Abir Mukherjee

Goodreads

The second Sam Wyndham mystery returns to 1920’s India, a land full of different religions, ethnicities and beliefs all thrown together and tucked under British Rule. Fresh off ruining his chances with Annie, Sam of course can’t get her out of his head. Meanwhile, the murder of a Maharajah’s heir pulls Sam and Banerjee out of Kolkata and north into the jungles of the Indian subcontinent. Here, in a somewhat autonomous kingdom, conspiracy and tension abound, and Wyndham and Banerjee must unravel the mystery before they become mere footnotes in yet another murder.

So far I’m quite enjoying my return to Colonial India. Hopefully the series’ll continue to deliver!

Voidbreaker – by David Dalglish

Goodreads

The conclusion to the Keepers trilogy finds all the threads come together at the most uncertain time. Though Adria and Devin have always lived for each other, Adria’s changing nature and Devin’s standing in the Order is straining their bond. And will her latest actions bring the two closer or tear them apart? And as the lines continue to blur, just whose side is each on?

Gaming

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a narrative-adventure game developed by Dim Bulb Games and Serenity Forge. Set in mid-20th century America, it finds a rough luck drifter stuck with a debt to some supernatural being. As the game’s lead protagonist, you’re tasked with collecting stories of the people that roam the land. Myths and legends come from somewhere, and over the course of the 15-30 hours you spend in the world, you’ll see how these tales originate and how they evolve through the telling. It’s an interesting premise and employs a few intriguing mechanics that I’d like to dig further into at a later time. I’m only about 5 hours in right now and… it’s fun so far. It’s keeping my attention, mostly. The travel mechanic seriously needs an overhaul, and it seems like there’s not enough consequence to one’s actions (or it doesn’t feel like it), but the gameplay is fun and interesting, and collecting all the stories and seeing how they evolve is becoming somewhat addictive.

Life

Got my second vaccine recently, and life came to a standstill while I got over the mini-COVID burst it instilled. Montana is one of the leading states in the nation in vaccine availability—due in large part to the number of anti-vaxers, deniers, anti-government types and COVID hoax people. Most places that have the vaccine here have started offering door prizes, gift cards, or other incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated. Furthermore, there’s be a marked rise in those that got their first dose only to skip their second. I understand their hesitation (I mean, I understand the hesitation to get something that has been largely untested on a large populace and may or may not have long-term side effects that haven’t manifested yet), but COVID and its recent strains are quite frankly terrifying. I’ve lived here long enough that I kinda even get some people’s hesitance to trust the government (to a degree), or accept the official story to anything.

Montana is roughly the size 380,000 sq. kilometers, which makes it slightly bigger than Japan or Germany. But where those other nations have 125 and 83 million people, respectively, we’re sitting at just over a million. Big, wide open spaces. Lots of undeveloped land, pasture, and forest. Small communities, spread out; between 15-20 towns of more than 5,000 people, 7 over 10k, and only 1 at around 100,000. People here spent the first half of 2020 hearing about the deadly pandemic without really seeing any effect of it. Some people here have a… unique mindset. Not everyone, mind. But especially those in rural communities, hundreds of miles from any town pushing 5,000, might go the entire year without getting COVID or meeting someone who had. Most towns here don’t have a police station, a hospital, or a fire station. They really on their own resources with help from their neighbors. The government doesn’t really play into day-today life. And so when the government came out telling people to beware the deadly deadly virus, most people didn’t take notice. Because they didn’t see it.

I live on the outskirts of one of the most liberal cities in my state. Missoula is a college town pushing about 80k. Most folks around here are better at masking, distancing, getting the vaccine, and usually vote blue. The rest of the state… not so much. Ever since these things became political we were doomed. I’m not really political. Half my friends bleed red and the other bleed blue. This last year divided everyone terribly. With the vaccine being deployed a bunch of us thought maybe those tensions could dial down a bit—but… nope, apparently not. Oh well.

Sorry that turned into a bit of a geography lesson but… “the more you know”, right?

A Rising Man – by Abir Mukherjee (Review)

Sam Wyndham #1

Mystery, Historical Fiction

Pegasus Books; May 5, 2016

390 pages (ebook)

11hr 37m (audio)

Goodreads

Author Website

4.0 / 5 ✪

The year is 1919.

The Great War has ended. The British Empire spans the globe. Former Scotland Yard Detective Sam Wyndham has recently returned home from the continent to find the life he lived pre-war is at an end. All the friends he shipped out with are dead. As is his young wife, Sarah, to whom he was wed not two days before leaving for the war. With nowhere to turn, Sam soon finds himself in the gutter, addicted to the morphine they’d given him to dull the pain of his war wounds. After the morphine runs out, he turns to opium—a cheaper and more plentiful alternative.

A chance telegram saves Sam’s life. A few months later, Sam Wyndham sets foot on the Indian subcontinent for the first time. His new life as a Captain in the Imperial Police Force in Bengal to begin on the second of April, one day after his arrival. A week later, the body of a senior official is found in the sewer, a note in his mouth warning of a potential insurrection among the natives.

So begins an investigation that will drag Wyndham all across Kolkata (Calcutta)—from the slums packed with native Indians to the upscale mansions of the British Elite, from seedy opium dens to the jungles of the rural countryside. A son of the empire and a native son rub elbows in the Imperial Police, while an intoxicating woman split between both worlds may yet steal his heart away. From natives to expats, Wyndham must choose his allies wisely, as there’s no telling which allegiance they hold any more than whose pocket they may be in. The only certainty is that Wyndham must solve this murder and soon, before tensions between the Indians and the Empire boil over.

I stumbled upon A Rising Man while shopping for a Christmas present for my father. While I ultimately did not get him this, I ended up buying it for myself as it sounded so interesting. A historical mystery, A Rising Man does a pretty good job of transporting us to Colonial India—a melting pot of English “civility” and native “savagery”. With Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Europeans, Indians, and more alike all forced together by the hands of capitalism, Colonial India feels like a caldera waiting to erupt. Abir Mukherjee does an incredible job capturing the atmosphere of the place: the tensions, the humidity, the jungle and predators and flies, the wealth and poverty all jammed together. It’s quite good.

The mystery itself toes the line between fascinating and convoluted, with so enough twists and turns that kept me on my toes throughout. While everything is a bit thick and murky at the outset, the waters eventually cleared enough for me to get a handle on everything as the mystery progressed. While I did call one major reveal very early on, it actually took me quite some time to figure out whodunnit in time for the conclusion. The pacing was a bit stop-start, but I realize that’s a tough ratio to hit, especially for a new author and in a debut series. While it’s not a Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot calibre mystery, A Rising Man kept me easily entertained throughout, and guessing until the final page was turned.

One final note on A Rising Man is the issues it tackles. The story takes place at a global crossroads, where many historically rival cultures compete with one that is very heterogeneous, and used to having its own way. At the time it would’ve been one of the few places on earth with so many different cultures locked in a war against homogenization, as opposed to somewhere like Colonial America where everything seemed to just blend together (well, not everything, sadly). From bigotry to religious discrimination to who and whom its acceptable to love, the story is really set at a very interesting—if incredibly tense—time period. While it does an adequate job of addressing the tension between the English and Bengali people, I would like to see more of the region’s minorities in ethnicity and religion in later books. Additionally, I really would’ve liked to have more of a look into the caste system at this time—which is only rarely mentioned, but never focused on.

TL;DR

A Rising Man combines historical fiction with a complex and engrossing mystery with twists and turns enough to have me guessing until the very end. Though Sam Wyndham isn’t the greatest narrator, he does an adequate job of tackling both the investigation and the region’s tensions. He’s also a bit of git. But while you probably won’t buy A Rising Man for the romance or action, the mystery itself is more than enough of a reason to. All combined with a one of a kind setting that finds opulent wealth rubbing shoulders with crippling poverty and a melting pot of cultures, religions, ideals, and ethnicities, makes A Rising Man a great read, and a mystery you won’t want to put down until the last page is turned.

The Sam Wyndham series continues with A Necessary Evil, out since 2017. I can’t wait to continue this series!

April 2021

Well, Spring is here! It might even stop snowing soon. April kicks off a decently busy couple of months reading-wise; not a ton of ARCs to get through this month, but I’ve a little prep reading for things that release next month, and then four books that drop between April 27th and May 4th.

ARCs

Instinct – by Jason M. Hough (4 • 06)

Goodreads

Welcome to Silvertown, Washington. Population 602 (for now).

Despite its small size, the small mountain town is home to more conspiracy theories than any other place in America. Officer Mary Whittaker is slowly acclimating to the daily weirdness of life here, but when the chief of police takes a leave of absence, she is left alone to confront a series of abnormal incidents–strange even by Silvertown standards.

An “indoor kid” who abhors nature dies on a random midnight walkabout with no explanation.

A hiker is found dead on a trail, smiling serenely after being mauled by a bear.

A woman known for being a helicopter parent abandons her toddler twins without a second thought.

It’s almost as if the townsfolk are losing their survival instinct, one by one…

As Whittaker digs deeper into her investigation, she uncovers a larger conspiracy with more twists and turns than a mountain road, and danger around every corner. To save Silvertown, she must distinguish the truth from paranoia-fueled lies before she ends up losing her own instincts…and her life!

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – by Becky Chambers (4 • 20)

Goodreads

Well, I don’t have the US cover here (because I prefer the UK one), and I realize this has already come out in the UK, but this return to the Wayfarers universe comes out in the US this month, so here it is. I was actually provided copies of this by both Harper Voyager and Hodder & Stoughton, so prepare for a second review of this around the 20th. It maaay look quite familiar, actually.

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

Fugitive Telemetry – by Martha Wells (4 • 27)

Goodreads

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

Murder By Other Means – by John Scalzi (4 • 30)

Goodreads

This second entry in the Dispatcher series is already out in audio, but is getting its own lovely release in physical and ebook formats from Subterranean Press.

Welcome to the new world, in which murder is all but a thing of the past. Because when someone kills you, 999 times out of 1,000, you instantly come back to life. In this world, there are dispatchers—licensed killers who step in when you’re at risk of a natural or unintentional death. They kill you—so you can live.

Tony Valdez is used to working his job as a dispatcher within the rules of the law and the state. But times are tough, and more and more Tony finds himself riding the line between what’s legal and what will pay his bills. After one of these shady gigs and after being a witness to a crime gone horribly wrong, Tony discovers that people around him are dying, for reasons that make no sense…and which just may implicate him.

Tony is out of time: to solve the mystery of these deaths, to keep others from dying, and to keep himself from being a victim of what looks like murder, by other means.

Other Releases

The Girl and the Mountain – by Mark Lawrence (4 • 13)

The second Book of the Ice, even though I haven’t read the first one, I’m still excited about the release of #2.

Goodreads

On the planet Abeth there is only the ice. And the Black Rock.

For generations the priests of the Black Rock have reached out from their mountain to steer the fate of the ice tribes. With their Hidden God, their magic and their iron, the priests’ rule has never been questioned. But when ice triber Yaz challenged their authority, she was torn away from the only life she had ever known, and forced to find a new path for herself.

Yaz has lost her friends and found her enemies. She has a mountain to climb, and even if she can break the Hidden God’s power, her dream of a green world lies impossibly far to the south, across a vast emptiness of ice. Before the journey can even start, she has to find out what happened to the ones she loves and save those that can be saved.

Abeth holds its secrets close, but the stars shine brighter for Yaz and she means to unlock the truth.

Way of the Argosi – by Sebastien de Castell (4 • 15)

I’m quite excited about this prequel to the Spellslinger series, and will have to read it once it gets a US debut. That said, I absolutely LOVE the Hot Key Book covers.

Goodreads

Stealing, swindling, and gambling with her own life just to survive, Ferius will risk anything to avenge herself on the zealous young mage who haunts her every waking hour.

But then she meets the incomparable Durral Brown, a wandering philosopher gifted in the arts of violence who instead overcomes his opponents with shrewdness and compassion. Does this charismatic and infuriating man hold the key to defeating her enemies, or will he lead her down a path that will destroy her very soul?

Through this outstanding tale of swashbuckling action, magical intrigue, and dazzling wit, follow Ferius along the Way of the Argosi and enter a world of magic and mystery unlike any other.

The Queen of Izmoroz – by Jon Skovron (4 • 20)

Though I only made it through a quarter of Book #1 of the Goddess War, I’m still somewhat interested in this. I’d have to… well, not “read” it, so much as “skim” it to catch up in time for Izmoroz.

Goodreads

Sonya has brought a foreign army to free her country from imperial rule, but her allies may have other goals in the second book of this thrilling epic fantasy trilogy from Jon Skovron.

The first battle is over, but war yet looms on the horizon. Sonya and her allies–the foreign Uaine and their armies of the undead–have beaten back the imperial soldiers from the capital city. Now they have the rest of the country to free.

Meanwhile, her brother the famed wizard Sebastian has retreated with the imperial forces to regroup and lick his wounds. Betrayed by his sister and his wife, the beautiful noblewoman Galina, he will regain control of his life and his country at any cost.

Music

Vultures Die Alone – Arion (4 • 09)

Again, while I’m sure I’ll find other music I love this month, Arion is the only band I recognize with an album out. This power metal band has a more melodic style and almost no death growls compared to so many of their Finnish metal compatriots. So glad that they made it through 2020 without disbanding.

Currently Reading

The Glass Breaks – by A.J. Smith

Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Duncan Greenfire is alive. Three hours ago, he was chained to the rocks and submerged as the incoming tide washed over his head. Now the waters are receding and Duncan’s continued survival has completed his initiation as a Sea Wolf. It is the 167th year of the Dark Age, 167 years since the Sea Wolves and their Eastron kin arrived from across the sea. The Sea Wolves and Eastrons can break the glass and step into the void, slipping from the real world and reappearing wherever they wish. Wielding their power, they conquered the native Pure Ones and established their own Kingdom. Walking between the worlds of Form and Void, the Sea Wolves glorify in piracy and slaughter. Their rule is absolute, but young Duncan Greenfire will discover a conspiracy to end their dominion, a conspiracy to shatter the glass that separates the worlds of Form and Void and unleash a primeval chaos across the world.

So after the second half of March ended with me reading nothing for two weeks only to finish two books in the last three days, we’re taking things a little more slowly to start April. Only reading the one book, and my third by A.J. Smith: the Glass Breaks. About halfway through and I have to say I’m enjoying it a lot more than I expected to given my struggles with his last series. Book #2—the Sword Falls—(which I thought was coming out last month) actually comes out on May 1st. I have this nasty habit of requesting the second book in a series I’m interested in before I read the first one, which uh… Well, here’s hoping it pays off.

Gaming

Even though I did manage to finish Hitman, March was pretty much a bust. I had so much trouble concentrating on ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. And so I ended up watching past streams of PUBG on Eurogamer. I then I was like “well, I got the game for free at some point, might as well try it”. And… it’s okay. I suck at FPS, especially multiplayer ones, but this one is… okay. I mean, I’m never completing it and I’m never going to get anywhere near half the achievements for it, but it is kinda entertaining me at the moment, which is the important bit.

Life

Not playing much and not reading much at the moment. Not sleeping much, either. Which has been especially problematic with regards to the first two.

Been trying to recruit another person to help me out here during those periods I have no motivation. My sister didn’t catch on, which was disappointing, but oh well. Should have another trial review here in a… well, sometime, which hopefully will work out better. My friend is incredibly skeptical and stubborn about the whole thing though, so I’m not holding my breath. She’s always been really stubborn, though.

Spring has sprung here, and the weather continues to fluctuate wildly between sun and snow. Which it does a lot of in Montana, to be fair. We routinely get snow 10-11 months of the year. And the weather is a fickle thing, often changing on a dime. If nothing else, it’s been a bit warmer when I have to work outside. Though not much.

One Day All This Will Be Yours – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Review)

Standalone, Novella

Scifi, Time Travel

Solaris; March 2, 2021

192 pages (ebook)

4.5 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

I was kindly provided with a review copy in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters or affects my opinion. Many thanks to Solaris, Rebellion and NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own. All quotes are subject to change in the official publication. Don’t blame Rebellion, or me if they do.

One Day All This Will Be Yours is a love story for the ages.

Kinda.

I mean, there’s some sort of romance within, along with plenty of ages (since time travel and all), and it’s definitely a story, so there’s that. The rest of it basically answers the question: What would happen if a sentient nuclear warhead fell in love? Could it forever deny its baser instinct to eradicate life, or would it… boom?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Stalin and Hitler is cheating.”
“I don’t see why. Achilles is cheating, he never even existed.”
“Says the woman with three Jack the Rippers.”

The fight’s begun by then. It is…
Strangely hilarious.

Nobody remembers how the Causality War started. Really, there’s literally no one to remember—except for me. And I’ve forgotten.

See, the thing about screwing with causality is that eventually, it’s really hard to remember where the start of things and the end of things actually was. And that was before we broke time.

While I don’t remember who started the war—much less whose side I was on—I was the one to finish it. Then I tidied things up as best I could and came here, to the end of time itself. There was no place left for me where I’d been. Or should I say, “when I’d been”. But with time irreparably broken, there was only one place to go. And only one thing to do: see that it never happens again.

This is one of those stories where we never learn the narrator’s name. But his name’s not all that important, to be honest. Probably doesn’t even remember it himself. That’s the thing about causality and time-travel; it really messes with the old noodle. Sufficient to say he’s a time warrior—the last of his name.

The concept works really well. A time warrior, trying to prevent another time war before all of time is destroyed. Or, MORE destroyed, I guess. It being a time travel story, it made my head hurt if I tried too hard to sort everything out. The good news is: the book never tried very hard to sort everything out. Didn’t even really take itself seriously. Oh, there’s a plot, and a story, and they’re both lovely to boot. But it’s filled with tongue-in-cheek, sarcasm, and dark humor. Combined with the detailed, if not intricate, plot—it makes for an entertaining, intense, and often hilarious read.

[We] have a fine old hoot watching Hilter get chased round and round a field by an allosaur. It’s very therapeutic. And the thing about allosaurs is they can run really quite fast, and the thing about Hitlers is that they can’t, not really, or not for very long.

And that’s all before the love story kicks off.

I won’t say much about that, just that… it’s certainly something. I mean, I would totally read more romance novels if they were like this.

While the ending makes for a bit of a letdown (again, no spoilers), One Day All This Will Be Yours is another excellent example of the author in novella form; quirky, creative, unique, and incredibly entertaining.

TL;DR

One Day All This Will Be Yours is the idea time-travel novella—not too intense, not too serious, not TOO hilarious, but just enough of all those combined. Also, entertaining. Very entertaining. My personal choice for the greatest love story of all time (pun intended), the time warrior’s adventure is by no means boring before he meets his perfect match. And while there is a bit of a slump at the very end, ODATWBY provides a unique, amazing take on time travel, and causality itself. Definitely recommended!

And if you haven’t read any of them by now, Tchaikovsky is making a habit of putting out one or two novellas a year through Solaris/Rebellion. My most recent favs have included Walking to Aldebaran and Firewalkers. Look for him later this year with Shards of Earth, a full-length novel from Orbit, and Elder Race, a novella from Tor.

Black Heart Update

Just a quick update on Black Heart. If you don’t know, Black Heart (by Mark Smylie) was due to be the 2nd book in the Artesia series, followup to his 2014 fantasy debut, The Barrow. But then Pyr was sold, the new holding company rescinded the contract for the 2nd book due to their lack of interest, and Smylie has been working on getting it out on his own since then.

I did a post on this back in…. May 2020, reporting that Smylie had written 37 of a projected 47 chapters, 29 of which he’d posted for subscribing members of his Patreon. He went on to routinely publish chapters until about July 29, by which point he had 36 posted. He posted Chapter 37 a month later on August 31.

Then the updates stopped.

No, not completely. Smylie has other projects on his Patreon, mostly consisting of his Sword & Barrow Artesia TTRPG, which he continued posting content for semi-regularly even after Black Heart updates stopped. At this point I just assumed that his mind wanders just as much as mine does and his authorial tendencies do as well, judging the odds that he got back around to it to be 50/50 (as in either he would or he wouldn’t).

Well, on December 31, he posted Chapter 38.

Then on January 11, we got an update. You can read it HERE if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, I’ll give you a TL;DR version:

  1. Black Heart is still on, just delayed a little because COVID
  2. Maybe a dozen chapters left in the book, which will set it at ~400k words total (as compared to the Barrow which was maybe half that)
  3. He hopes to have it completed by MARCH 2021
  4. Announces the sequel to Black Heart, BRIGHT SWORD, which he’ll begin working on sometime following finishing up Black Heart

My reactions to this are mostly positive, but maybe slightly more pessimistic. I’d hope to see Black Heart wrapt up by May-June 2021, but it is heartening to hear that it’s almost finished and to see an actual ETA. (I mean, that being said, THIS was a thing from a couple years back) I was further bolstered about Black Heart’s fate after hearing that he’d actually planned its sequel—and, while I have reservations about the likelihood of that happening anytime soon as well, concrete ideas for a story following the one you’re supposedly finishing are great as they actually indicate the likelihood of you finishing the story that precedes them (if that makes any sense). Dunno if he’ll ever get to Bright Sword, but while I hope he does, my immediate concerns rest with the completion of Black Heart.

TL;DR

So, if the just skipped right to the end, here it is. If you read all that stuff above, congratulations! I apologize if it was a bit rambly, but I’ve been sick (don’t think it’s COVID, but we’ll find out here in a little) lately, and I tend to talk a lot more and make waaaay less sense when I’m not feeling well.

Anyway, take heart friends! Or, at least, some heart. But any is better than none, eh?

So, Mark Smylie’s still working on Black Heart, having posted 38 of a projected 47 chapters on his Patreon page as of the writing of this. He hopes to finish it by March 2021. Additionally, he has announced a sequel, BRIGHT SWORD, which he’ll begin writing after finishing BLACK HEART. There’s also some stuff on the Last Barrow, a new addition to his RPG collection which you can check out in detail if you’re interested. Or if you’re not.

I do really hope Black Heart becomes a thing.