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.

Book Loot – June Edition

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

ARCs for July

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

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

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

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

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

Red Noise – by John P. Murphy (7/14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz (7/28)

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

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

Purchases

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

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

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

Gifts & Freebies

Minor Mage – by T. Kingfisher

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

And They Were Never Heard From Again – by Benedict Patrick

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

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

Games

The Long Dark (PS4)

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

Afterword

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

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

On Tap 04/03

Currently Reading

• Witchsign – by Den Patrick

Working off the top of my TBR this week as I was having trouble focusing on any ARC, which… is disappointing, but gives me an excuse to color outside the box a little. Witchsign—in addition to having a cover to die for—is a pretty good read thus far. The Witchsign has always been associated with the Dragons, but since they were overthrown 70 years before, those with the talent are gathered up by the Empire and killed. Or so everyone believes. Steiner has no talent for magic—of that he’s sure. But his sister Kjell is a different matter. With the Inquisition coming to town, Steiner would go to any length to protect her. And he may have to. Update: Halfway point—not perfect, but pretty good.

• Senlin Ascends – by Josiah Bancroft

When Thomas Senlin visits the Tower of Babel for the first time, he knows what to expect. He’s read and studied about it his whole life. Except, nothing is as he thought it was. With a day of arriving, his young wife has been lost, Senlin robbed, and their honeymoon ruined. Now Senlin must reach the tower’s top to find her—or return home in shame, alone. I can see why this was quite the sensation when it was rereleased a few years back. What I can’t figure is how it wasn’t immediately picked up by a publisher after its 2013 self-publication, but oh well. So far a lovely and interesting read and ANOTHER off my TBR for the year.

Up Next

• Blood of Empire – by Brian McClellan

I swear—I SWEAR—this is next. I WILL read it after Witchsign. I’ve a physical copy, so it’ll have to wait that long. But it’s waited long enough besides. I also acquired a copy of Where Gods Fear to Go recently, but that’ll have to wait its turn.

ARCs & Audiobooks

Either Ranger of Marzanna or Shorefall, probably. I also have a copy of Automatic Reload I want to get to, but it’ll likely have to wait. I’ll probably lead with Marzanna, as I’m a bigger fan of Skovron than of Bennett, but we’ll see, eh? I’ll also probably add some audiobook, though I’m less than sure what it’ll be. After Senlin Ascends, I might want to get right to the Arm of the Sphinx, but it could be Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows, Ten Thousand Doors of January, or something else. Future’s a big mystery, at the moment.

Gaming

75+ hours into AC: Odyssey and I’ve yet to uncover the whole world. I’m mean seriously—how big is Greece really? Done remarkably little of the DLC as well. So… might be on that for a while longer. Otherwise . . . um. I’ve a craving for the Long Dark lately. Haven’t played it since their last update deleted my saves, but it’s time to go back to the nuclear winter. Great survival and exploration game, if you’re into either of those. It’s also the ONE post-apocalyptic thing I’ve been able to stand recently. Most calm I’ve ever felt in an apocalypse. Plus I’ve logged hundreds of hours through the 6 years I’ve owned it.

Otherwise, the world is… what it is. I was laid off one job in early March when the dow started to tank, and my other job is on hold til May 8th. I have enough savings to get through it, and I’ve family to stay with, so I’m good. Plus I’ve been sick (with what I can neither confirm nor deny may be COVID) for the past three-ish weeks, and no one’s hiring sickies lately. So I’ve some free time. To read. To game. To chat, if anyone’s interested. To develop other hobbies. Or maybe I’ll post some apocatips for the apocalypse. Dunno.

On Tap 12/12

Currently Reading

Blood Tally – by Brian McClellan

The second Valkyrie Collections book actually came out last month for Kickstarter backers, but unfortunately I was busy being sick and weak and um, not reading. Anyway, though I just started I’m already pretty hyped to get into it.

Up Next

• An Easy Death – by Charlaine Harris

Second or third time I’ve picked this one up, but I’m still excited to crack it. With Gunnie Rose #2 out in January, a full adventure awaits!

• The Fall of the Readers – by Django Wexler

Actually lost my library loan at 50% so I’ve had to re-request it. The final chapters of Alice’s adventure await. It’s the year of Django, apparently.

Gaming

This War of Mine

So I’ve been replaying This War of Mine and it’s still as atmospheric and bleak as before. A survival and resource management game, you take on the lives of a small group of survivors amidst a war-torn city. Through scavenging, trading and stealing you must either see them through the war, or find a way to escape the city. I’m actually approaching the two week mark in my most recent save and it’s this first that I’ve neither killed anyone nor lost one of my survivors to them. Of course, there’s a long way to go yet.

I haven’t yet played any of the DLC “stories” yet, and I’m honestly not interested in doing so. Haven’t heard great things about them, and the story set by the survivors is more than engrossing enough. I’d more than recommend the game, or just donating to War Child. Or both.

On Tap 06/23

Currently Reading

• Beneath the Twisted Trees – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Book 4 of a predicted 6 Shattered Sands, opens with Çeda… well, I won’t ruin it. Sufficient to say I’m terribly excited about where this installment—and ultimately the series—will lead. NetGalley was very nice to furnish me with a copy (incidentally, this might be the longest I’ve gone without buying a book in ten years—which is great as I’m still not rich) (totally isn’t gonna last though; the not-buying-books thing, not the not-being-rich one). Other than Çeda, the character I’m most looking forward to revisiting is Ramahd. Following the events of Veil of Spears, he has lost Meryam and been exiled from his homeland, furthermore Çeda wants nothing more to do with him. Will he recover? Will he do something foolish or desperate? I dunno. Yet. Who are you looking forward to revisiting?

Next Up

• Silver in the Wood – by Emily Tesh

I really want to read this one as I’ve read the teaser already but somehow abstained from buying it on the spot. Mostly because I was waffling between a physical book and the ebook version. Still am kinda. Other than the characters, setting and plot, I’ve no idea why anyone would want to read this. Never heard of the author before—but I’m sure that will change.

• Fallen Gods – by James A. Moore

Upon finishing Book 1 of the Tides of War, I kicked around a bit before buying the second. Audio CD version must’ve been like, $4-5? It’s up a bit now, and I’m not in love with the reader to recommend him without reading it first. And that was good enough after a lackluster intro to Brogan McTyre’s story. So, I have this all loaded up, and with a couple backpacking trips in the near future, I should have plenty of trail-time to get through it.

To Do

I have a couple reviews to get up. I’m touching up ones for Verses for the Dead and Exit Strategy that should be up later this week, hopefully. And I’m finishing digesting Crowfall, so that shouldn’t be much later. It was AMAZING, so I’m super excited to see how everyone else likes it when it comes out.

I need to do a “Stacking the Shelves” thing to. Never done one before, and they’re a fair bit of work, but I really like them, so I’ll try and break one in… Monday-Tuesday-ish? We’ll see.

Ah, also I just got Red Dead Redemption. Both of ’em. I’ve played a bit of the first one, which was awesome, but the second looks incredible, so… I maaaay be a little late on some things come July.