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.

On Tap 1/6/21

Well, welcome to the new year! If you were one of those people who were hoping the magic of a fresh year would calm tensions, restore friendships, cure the virus, and cause humanity to come together instead of becoming increasingly divided… well, it didn’t. Honestly, I’d guessed as much, but I was hoping for it still.

Oh well, maybe next year.

Currently Reading

The Way of Kings – by Brandon Sanderson

2021 begins with a reread of one of my favorite books ever, the Way of Kings. I honestly hadn’t planned on a reread of the Stormlight Archive this year, but my sister changed my mind. Notably, her reluctance to read Oathbringer, Edgedancer or the rest because she doesn’t remember what happened to this point and stubbornly refuses to reread them herself. Therefore I will read them in her stead and recap each part (there are 10) from the first two books—and maybe #3 and the two novellas—and post those here. But since WoK is reeeaaally long, and I’ve other stuff I want to read concurrently, I’ll probably be on it for a while. Oh well; I’d like to complain, but it’s really hard as they’re all SOOO GOOD!

Salvation – by Peter F. Hamilton

The latest Peter F. Hamilton series features a crashed alien spaceship and the mysterious, surprising cargo it contains. As the wreckage is 89-light-years distant, a special team is dispatched—but it’s going to take them some time to get there. And so, the POVs kinda fracture randomly. Tbh I kinda forgot what this was about until I read the prompt a minute ago, but so far I haven’t minded terribly because it’s still pretty interesting and entertaining.

Extraterrestrial – by Avi Loeb

My science (non-fiction science) read for the quarter examines the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua (yes, that’s a glottal—it’s Hawaiian for “scout”) and explores the theory that it is proof of extraterrestrial life. If you were ever super interested in the universe, astronomy, aliens and math as much as I was, this is actually quite an interesting read. While I don’t agree with all the author’s hypotheses, I’ve been quite enjoying the book so far.

Upcoming

I’ve been a bit tardy on my 2021 TBR but I hope to post it soon. Problem has been I’m not 100% what’s going to be on it yet. I’ve made over a dozen lists so far and while there are mainstays, there’re quite a few wild cards too. In addition to that, my 2020 Christmas and 2021 January book hauls. A few reviews, two ARCs and Where Gods Fear to Go, should be out between now and next weekend—including the Scorpion’s Tail by Preston & Child which will be up tomorrow!

So, be safe, sane, and… something else with an ‘s’. Something that means ‘great’. Let me know if you come up with that, please? Oh, and also if you’ve read any of the above, if there’s something I need to check out instead, or if there’s anything in particular I require on my 2021 TBR. Thank you!

The Most Disappointing Titles of 2020

Or should I say the books that I felt summed up 2020 the best? Is that more flattering?

Either way, along with the good comes the bad. Every year there are books we enjoy, and those that we were so disappointed in, sometimes not even the good ones can make up for them. So prepare for a bevvy of low ratings, DNFs, and rants about this or that. Therefore, I scheduled this for one of the most disappointing days of the year—December 28th, the Monday after Christmas, aka the day that I have to go back to work.

8

A Longer Fall – by Charlaine Harris

While I didn’t have a high opinion of its predecessor, I still had hopes that the 2nd Gunnie Rose would deliver where the first failed. It started off well but the action quickly overwhelmed all else so much so that when the pace slowed later on, there was no suspense or mystery or romance to keep the story moving. The ending I had a major problem with. It was as if all the character development and growth went out the window at the 75% mark.

2 / 5

7

Liquid Crystal Nightingale – by Eeleen Lee

A title you may not have heard of, I had high hopes that LCN would be my gem of the year. Alas, this scifi tale of… aliens? did not meet my expectations. With deep politics and complex narratives and so much advancement and subtlety this text felt stuffed to the gills with content. And a plot that I could just not manage to wrap my head around as the story constantly shifted back and forth in time. This is one of those that throws you in the deep end and lets you sink or swim. I sunk.

DNFed at 37%

6

Highfire – by Eoin Colfer

When the master of children’s adventure makes the move to contemporary adult fantasy, lock the doors and shutter the windows. Really. I found this book about a bayou dragon, a troublemaker, and a crooked sheriff to be crude for the sake of crudity, or because that’s what adults are? I also found the characters shallow, the world unfleshed out, the plot lacking depth, the humor over-the-top, and swearing for the sake of swearing. Absolutely not for me.

DNFed at 24%

5

By Force Alone – by Lavie Tildar

A reimagining of the KIng Arthur legend, I read this less than a month after one of my favorite new books of the year, Seven Endless Forests. To say that they were both technically reimaginings of Arthurian legend would be accurate. To say that they had much else in common would not. I found By Force Alone to be a horrible book with awful, wretched characters that I hated. But that may’ve been because of my idealization of Arthurian legend and the fact that this book was more of a grimdark modification of it.

DNFed at 22%

4

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows – by John August

The blurb of Kingdom of Shadows has Arlo undertaking the arduous, dangerous task of rescuing his father from exile in China via the Long Woods—kinda a magical shortcut through the shadows. The problem—the main problem—is that this adventure wraps up in the first third of the book, and after that, well… we try something else. Something that kinda fizzles instead of killing it. The adventure and exploration aspects are out the window, and everything that’s defined the series thus far goes with it. The rest of the story is mildly enjoyable right up to the end, which is… abrupt. If this is the end of Arlo Finch, it sucks. If this is another step on the road, it’ll definitely put a hitch in his giddyup.

3 / 5

3

Battle Ground – by Jim Butcher

Now I know you’re surprised with this one. Dresden Files #17 was actually a decent book. But it was so OUT THERE, both with respect to the series and with respect to Peace Talks that I had to include it. There’s also no detective element to it. It’s just a war, but with the same pacing as the detective books. Which… doesn’t work. It’s like an epic boss battle the entire time, which I grew quite sick of quite quickly. Luckily the ending helps assuage some of this disgust, which gives me hope for the future. For a book, Battle Ground was decent. For a Dresden Files novel, it was awful.

3.5 / 5

2

The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot – by Josh Gottsegen

From the blurb, look and feel of this book, I expected it to be the return to Redwall that I’d been hoping for ever since the untimely death of Brian Jacques. Alas, if that’s what the author was going for too, they missed by a mile. Nothing made sense in the world. Trees are regular size except when they’re not, except that they’re still treated as regular sized even though they fit inside tiny greenhouses and grow fruit the size of chipmunk paws. All of the animals can talk to one another, except when they can’t. There’s a huge amount of law in this book. Like, A LOT. Are children now fascinated with lawyers and suing people nowadays? Because this is supposed to be a children’s book, and if so I’m pretty sure our society’s headed in the wrong direction.

2 / 5

1

The Ranger of Marzanna – by Jon Skovron

I was a big fan of Skovron’s Empire of Storms trilogy, so when I saw the announcement of a new series about a brother and sister on either side of a civil war, I was automatically in love. Bearing a similar tag-line to Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler, Ranger of Marzanna begins with a murder, a kidnapping, and a rescue attempt. And then the plot goes stale. In two weeks I made it little more than a quarter through this tome (it’s 530 pages), and it felt like I was rereading Bleak House. It was dry, dusty, and painful. Sonya was by far the more interesting of the two siblings—as her chapters were just plain boring. Sebastian, her brother’s, were borderline unreadably dull. I’m unlikely to ever come back to this, but if I do, my expectations are only a fraction of what they were.

DNFed on page 160

Well that was quite something, eh? Were there any books that you were super hyped about only to be smashed in the face with a frying pan? Let me know what I should (or should not) be reading! And stay tuned for another list, coming soon!

My Top 10 New Books of 2020

I was actually a bit surprised by how this all shook out. Several of my choices were extremely easy ones (1-7), and then slightly more difficult (8), and then really chaotically hard (9-10). I’m honestly a little shocked that the Black Song by Anthony Ryan didn’t make it onto this list, but when I finished ranking them, it’d somehow ended up at #11. Anyway, let me explain.

Welcome to the first (second) wrap-up list of the year. These are ten of the best new books (books that came out in 2020) I read this year. In part they are ranked based on the rating I gave them, but also I took into account the lasting memory of each read as well. So, like, I initially rated The Black Song as 4.2 / 5 and Seven Endless Forests as 4 / 5, but while I certainly enjoyed the story of the second Raven’s Blade, I better remembered SEF as having a lovely world with an interesting story to boot. And in part since this was a hard year for everyone, the more light, adventurous of the two seems to’ve won out. Maybe that makes sense and maybe it doesn’t, but here we go anyhow:

10

Seven Endless Forests – by April G. Tucholke

One of the more carefree and generally fun stories of the year, SEF also provides such a lovely cover (did I mention I like green?).

On the heels of a devastating plague, Torvi’s sister, Morgunn, is stolen from the family farm by Uther, a flame-loving Fremish wolf-priest who leads a pack of ragged, starving girls. Torvi leaves the only home she’s ever known, and joins a shaven-skulled druid and a band of roaming Elsh artists known as the Butcher Bards. They set out on a quest to rescue Torvi’s sister, and find a mythical sword.

9

Age of Empyre – by Michael J. Sullivan

The final entry in the Legends of the First Empire comes in at #9 after concluding a fantastic six-book story with some twists I didn’t see coming.

A DOOR OPENS. AN ARMY OF DRAGONS ADVANCES. AND THE FATE OF THE LIVING RESTS WITH THE DEAD.

After obtaining the secret to creating dragons, the leader of the Fhrey has turned the tide of war once more—but gaining the advantage has come at a terrible price. While Imaly plots to overthrow the fane for transgressions against his people, a mystic and a Keeper are the only hope for the Rhunes. Time is short, and the future of both races hangs in the balance. In this exciting conclusion to the Legends of the First Empire series, the Great War finally comes to a climactic end, and with it dawns a new era—The Age of Empyre.

8

Peace Talks – by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Drought ends in a big way! Peace Talks features a return to the same world we readers have loved for 15 books. Yes, Harry Dresden’s back—plus a mystery, a battle, and a world to save.

When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, joins the White Council’s security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago–and all he holds dear?

7

Network Effect – by Martha Wells

The first full-length Murderbot novel delivers on the level of sarcasm and awkwardness I’ve come to love, while existing for twice the usual duration.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

6

The God Game – by Danny Tobey

Probably the most addictive thriller I’ve read in some time, I read the God Game in two days, and enjoyed every second of it.

You are invited!
Come inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
It’s fun!
But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!

With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.

But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

5

The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man – by Rod Duncan

Hailing from all the way back in January, I’d actually forgotten that this came out THIS YEAR. The conclusion to the Map of Unknown Things rounds out the Top 5, with a literal bang.

Ladies and gentlemen, for the very final time, Elizabeth and Edwin Barnabus will perform the grand illusion of the Vanishing Man.

Elizabeth Barnabus is a mutineer and a murderer. So they say. The noose awaits in Liverpool as punishment for her crimes. But they’ll have to catch her first.

Disguised as a labourer, Elizabeth flees west across America, following a rumour of her long-lost family. Crossing the border into the wilds of the Oregon Territory, she discovers a mustering army, a king who believes he is destined to conquer the world, and a weapon so powerful that it could bring the age of reason crashing down.

In a land where politics and prophecy are one and the same, the fate of the Gas-Lit Empire may come to rest on the perfect execution of a conjuring trick…

4

Ravencaller – by David Dalglish

The second book in the Keepers trilogy introduces ravencallers, a whole lot of monsters, and even more drama. With the final book out in 2021, if you haven’t tried David Dalglish yet, when’s a better time?

When ancient magic suddenly returns to his land, a warrior priest must protect his world from monsters that were once only legend in the second book of USA Today bestseller David Dalglish’s epic fantasy trilogy.

Magical creatures are attacking the capital city, seeking to retake what was once theirs, and no one is safe. Ancient cultists have cursed the highest members of the Church, turning them into twisted abominations. The only hope for a cure lies with Adria Eveson. To learn the cure, she must befriend an imprisoned cultist, and guard her heart against his seductive promises and twisted logic.
The fate of all races, human and magical, rests in her hands, and in the choices she makes. Should she choose wrong, only one person stands in her way: her brother, the Soulkeeper Devin Eveson.

Honorable Mentions

The Kraken’s Tooth – by Anthony Ryan, The Black Song – by Anthony Ryan, The Constant Rabbit – by Jasper Fforde, Every Sky a Grave – by Jay Posey, The Seventh Perfection – by Daniel Polansky, When Jackals Storm the Walls – by Bradley P. Beaulieu.

3

Forged – by Benedict Jacka

One of my more recent reads, the penultimate (I love that word) in the Alex Verus series delivers exactly where Fallen left off. A darker, more powerful Alex surprises and shocks, while maintaining the status of greatest British action hero since Daniel Craig.

To protect his friends, Mage Alex Verus has had to change–and embrace his dark side. But the life mage Anne has changed too, and made a bond with a dangerous power. She’s going after everyone she’s got a grudge against–and it’s a long list.

In the meantime, Alex has to deal with his arch-enemy, Levistus. The Council’s death squads are hunting Alex as well as Anne, and the only way for Alex to stop them is to end his long war with Levistus and the Council, by whatever means necessary. It will take everything Alex has to stay a step ahead of the Council and stop Anne from letting the world burn.

2

Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz

Part of me views this as just the right book at the right time—but most of me doesn’t care. A heavy dose of action and cyberpunk, panic attacks, and just the right amount of romance, I definitely enjoyed this more than anyone I know. And I’m okay with that.

In the near-future, automation is king, and Mat is the top mercenary working the black market. He’s your solider’s solider, with military-grade weapons instead of arms…and a haunted past that keeps him awake at night. On a mission that promises the biggest score of his life, he discovers that the top secret shipment he’s been sent to guard is not a package, but a person: Silvia.

Silvia is genetically-altered to be the deadliest woman on the planet–her only weakness is her panic disorder. When Mat decides to free her, both of them become targets of the most powerful shadow organization in the world. They go on the lam, determined to stop a sinister plot to create more super assassins like Silvia. Between bloody gunfights, rampant car chases and drone attacks, Mat and Silvia team up to survive…and unexpectedly realize their messed up brain-chemistry cannot overpower their very real chemistry.

1

Ashes of the Sun – by Django Wexler

So it’s Number 1, is it? Could’ve probably told you this when I read it. I adored this new fantasy by Wexler, combining a brother-sister combo with a shot of vengeance and a added punch of adventure. Nothing seems to go as planned and everything surprises. Loved it! Can’t WAIT for the next one!

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

And so concludes our broadcast day. Stay tuned for many more lists, maybe a couple reviews, and a cookie or two. Hope you’ve enjoyed this year—I sure haven’t. But maybe your Christmas will help you forget all that. Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and more everyone!

Merry Christmas! : A Last Minute Book Buying Guide

Why hello there, weary traveller! Done all your Christmas shopping for the year? Done ANY of your Christmas shopping for the year? What—you don’t have anyone to buy anything for? But of course you do! You’re an anyone, after all! And you’re definitely worth it (probably)!

Anyway, welcome to this very first edition of Refuge’s Last Minute Buying Guide!

Books that I’m Into (But Totally Haven’t Read)

Now I haven’t read these, but am certainly keen to! Maybe your partner, bf or gf likes to read and you’re not sure what to get them; maybe there’s that oh so special someone that you need an icebreaker with; maybe you want to get your, say, 3rd or 4th favorite blogger a nice gift? Well, look no further! With both a heavy dose of paper and a small helping of risk, where can you go wrong?

  1. Cage of Souls – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I’m a big Tchaikovsky fan, despite the fact that I’ve never read any of his Shadows of the Apt megaseries. And with yet another of his novellas due in March of 2021, this is the perfect opportunity to hype oneself for it (I imagine). With a blurb that reads like John Prophet meets Defiance, with a surely heavy dose of adventure and a lovely green cover, surely no one would hate receiving this for the holidays! (And even if they do you could always give it to me, eh;)

2. Memoria – by Kristyn Merbeth

The 2nd in the Nova Vita Protocol (so just in case you or your loved one hasn’t read the first, maybe gift both, eh), Memoria details the ongoing adventures of the Kaiser family: both Scorpia and her brother Corvus. not only is there a strong female lead, but also a strong male lead, and a strong story to match. Not to mention the covers are just beautiful, so even if you don’t like either you can just display them somewhere prominent.

3. Rhythm of War – by Brandon Sanderson

If you haven’t read the Stormlight Archive, there’s already no helping you. Just like if you don’t already want the Rhythm of War, there’s nothing I can say to save your soul. I mean, I want to read it—it’s bad enough that I haven’t yet—that should be more than enough in this case.

Bet You Can’t Just Buy One

  1. The Expanse – by James S.A. Corey

With the 9th and final book on shelves late next year, why not give your loved one a gift of new beginnings, in the form of Leviathan Wakes? A science fiction epic that spawned a TV show that got cancelled and subsequently uncancelled, the Expanse series is one that continues to impress well past the first book. After all, what better way to celebrate Hanukkah that with a book every day?

2. Powder Mage – by Brian McClellan

A trilogy that spawned another and may yet spawn a third features mages that snort black powder and a story that never holds its punches. It’s a series that not only can I not decide my favorite book of—I can’t decide which one I like least either! So maybe buy one for your friend, two for your family, three for your bffs, or why not all six for yourself?

3. The Wayfarers – by Becky Chambers

Nothing really tugs the heartstring nor inspires the headstrings like the Wayfarers trilogy (soon to be a tetralogy). Absolutely wonderful, beautiful stories with amazing covers and lasting readability highlight all the reasons I can rave about these books. If you haven’t read any, maybe do yourself a favor and pick one up for Xmas. And you can always get your loved another!

Stocking Stuffers

Maybe you (or any of your loved ones) are one of those people that’s like, “books are so long, why even bother”—well then, this is the time for you! (I mean, you’re wrong, and probably a bad person, but what can be done about that?) These short reads are perfect for people with a weak bladder, short attention span, or moral deficiency such as dislike of fantasy.

  1. The Builders – by Daniel Polansky

This is mostly Ola’s (also kinda Piotrek’s) fault. I’ve read a couple of stories by Polansky, including one this very year, and they’ve been pretty enjoyable. This novella features a grimdark Redwall, with elements of revenge, dark comedy, and apparently a strange non-linear storyline. Perfect for yourself, or—if you’re not feeling brave enough—anyone of your loved ones who’ll probably let you read it after.

2. Summer Frost – by Blake Crouch

This 75 page story may be short, but it reads like a full-length adventure all its own. With a heavy dose of I, Robot, a dash of mystery and a lovely futuristic setting, this is a short I cannot recommend enough. And if you don’t fancy reading yourself, why not make someone else do it? I loved the narration of this, and hope you will as well!

3. The Murderbot Diaries – by Martha Wells

How big are y’all’s stocking, btw? Because I just couldn’t pick one Murderbot to recommend. So, why not get them all? The first four are roughly the size of one full Murderbot adventure, and a new novella is due out in 2021, so best catch up now! If your loved ones don’t love this sarcastic, introverted, killing-machine by the end of Book #1, maybe they’ll just dump the rest on you. Which would be… heartbreaking, I’m sure.

4. Edgedancer – by Brandon Sanderson

A short read by no one’s standards but his own, Edgedancer is the perfect introduction to Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive in a teensy, nearly 400-page package. It combines a thrilling story with a hilarious narration and is more than worthwhile addition to anyone’s stocking.

Now if 2021 is as great a year as 2020, we’re going to be in for a long haul full of lots of hiding and reading. And if the COVID vaccine turns out to be a bust, OR goes all I Am Legend (y’all remember how that started, right?), we could have a prolonged period in which to stock up on (aka horde) books. So, maybe take a few from this list into consideration? Or buy your own and let me know, so I can add them to MY TBR. Either way, I hope you enjoyed my holiday jokes, my seasonal sarcasm, and whatever else I did here but ultimately forgot.

2020 TBR Recap

So as we near the end of the year, it’s time to look back on the year. All the fun times we had… All the adventures we went on… All the ways humanity came together to make the world a better place… But since none of these things happened this year, let’s focus on something that 2020 was actually good for: READING!

(As an aside, I just want to say that my incredibly strange rating system made this wrap-up post quite difficult—but it’s not MY fault, it’s SOCIETY’S for adopting a 5 star standard system instead of 100 (or it could be mine, whatever))

Back in January, I listed 18 books that I’d like to read this year (plus I said some other things that turned out to be incredibly untrue). I’ve been doing the same thing for many a year, though they were usually reserved for me alone. But apparently sharing them with friends has helped me triumph where before I—yeah okay, it was probably just the peer-pressure. Whatever the reason, I managed to get through a record number! My previous high for a year had been 7/18, but I figured that this year I would try to buckle down, and maybe get as high as 9-10. Well, I got 11!

Finished

✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪

Age of Death – by Michael J. Sullivan 5.0

✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 1/2 +

Crownbreaker – by Sebastien de Castell 4.9

To Be Taught, If Fortunate – by Becky Chambers 4.9

Blood of Empire – by Brian McClellan 4.5

✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ +

Where Gods Fear to Go – by Angus Watson 4.3

Magebane – by Stephen Aryan 4.3

The Shattered Crown – by Richard Ford 4.0

Queenslayer – by Sebastien de Castell 4.0

Senlin Ascends – by Josiah Bancroft 4.0

✪ ✪ ✪ +

The Bone Ships – by R.J. Barker 3.4

✪ ✪ +

Witchsign – by Den Patrick 2.3

Note: I’ve yet to review either Where Gods Fear to Go, or Blood of Empire, but I’ll do my best to have those up by the end of the year, when I’ll return and link them up here. Ummmm someone please remind me to do that? Thank you!

Unread TBR

While I didn’t get to all my TBR this year (I mean, seriously, not even close, but) there’s still a chance for them to appear in 2021 (aka the Year of Impossible Regret). But will they make my 2021 TBR? Hmmm… well, let’s think about this…

Could be! I still want to read them all! But I’d say that… Metro 2035 has the highest likelihood of appearing as A) I have it in audio already, and B) it’s based on the events of Last Light, a video game which I absolutely adore. I mean, that being said, Metro 2033 (the book, and metaphysical journey and occasional faze-out festival) didn’t really correlate well with Metro 2033 (the game, a heart-pounding survival/horror shooter). But, fingers crossed that’ll change in #2!

As for the 2021 TBR, I’ve a few (too many) ideas and a handful of prototype lists, but we’ll see what 2021 brings! Honestly, if it’s more of the same I think I might just lock my self in the closet and cry until my eyes bleed. Have a great rest of the year everyone!