Book Loot – October / Updates

So… 2020’s almost over. Which is pretty nice. The pandemic isn’t in a great place right now, with nearly 200k new cases daily in the US. Politics really aren’t any better, with our current Commander in Chief refusing to acknowledge the pandemic at all, while it rages. He also refuses to accept other things, but let’s not get into that. My own anxiety is pretty dang high, as I’m working six days a week somehow. And half of them are surrounded by people. And people in my state continue to ignore the whole mask thing. But let’s not dwell on that.

At the moment, I have no new ARCs for December. I only requested one, and haven’t heard back about Memoria. So, I’m assuming that this’ll be my catch-up month. But we’ll address that later. First, for what I collected this month:

Purchases

Forged – by Benedict Jacka

Eleventh of a planned twelve in the series, Forged comes at a time when SHRHTF for Alex. I won’t spoil it for those of you who are behind and have any interest, but sufficient to say that we’re seeing a new, uncut Verus who’s in it to win it. I can’t wait to tuck into this—right after I finish Blood of Empire!

Planetside – by Michael Mammay

I was planning on waiting til it actually got here to declare it as loot, but whatever. I’ve heard good things about this series (particularly from Niki), so went out and got a used copy. As I’ve no ARCs for December, and I seriously underperformed with regards to scifi month—figured this was the perfect time.

Purchased Games

Since I bought more new games this month (all during black friday sales (all online, I might add) where I’ve apparently no constraint), I figured I might at least talk those up. I’ve always planned on having more of a gaming presence on here but haven’t really ever gotten around to it. Maybe this’ll help (I guess we’ll see).

Horizon: Zero Dawn Complete

This was an impulse thing. It was on sale, I’ve heard great things about it, so here we are. I pretty much just doubled my game haul for the year in one week. I’ll probably get to this sometime next year—here’s hoping it’s good!

Control: Ultimate Edition

This game I’ve wanted pretty much since it’s release but held off because of some news of lag and glitches. But from what I’ve heard those are pretty much patched by now and I’ve managed to get the game and dlc on sale. I’m… pretty excited to get into this. Not as much as Cyberpunk, but close.

Borderlands 3

One of my favorite co-op series, I don’t play much Borderlands by myself. But as some of my friends are locked away, I managed to B1G1 free and figured I’d gift someone a copy to play it with me. If anyone reading this owns it already and has any interest in some co-op, do let me know, eh?

In terms of news… well we’ve pretty much covered it, right? The US sucks right now. Y’all stay safe, y’hear? I’ve a nasty cold this week that wiped my schedule clean—apparently if you have 2+ COVID symptoms you’re required to quarantine or get a test, but they’re desperate around here as everybody has it—so I actually got some rest in. But since I felt pretty awful during most of the week, I didn’t really get to enjoy much of it.

Anyway, this brings us to December. There’re a couple of posts I want to do this month in addition to reviews, which hopefully I’ll get around to in-between my chaotic work schedule. One is that I’m declaring next year a reread year, where I’ll reread some of my favorite books and see if they live up to my memory of them. I’d been kicking around the idea for a while now, but really focused on it after a comment by Piotrek over on Re-Enchantment. Now all I need is some cool artwork and an even cooler name for it. Which… doesn’t seem too likely, but hey—could happen.

Yeah so, let’s get this year over with!

On Tap 11/14

Currently Reading

• After Atlas – by Emma Newman

The second in the series from Planetfall author Emma Newman, I’ve heard that this is better than the original, which is good, as the entire thing was overshadowed by the trainwreck of an ending. But the first book is also what haunts our lead, Detective Carlos Moreno. But when a murder forces Moreno to confront the demons of his past, it also forces him to dig deeper into the departure of Atlas—more deeply than he ever wanted.

• Phoenix Extravagant – by Yoon Ha Lee

Ah, one of the backlog of ARCs that somehow I missed. While not exactly science fiction, it’s not exactly NOT science fiction. I mean, there are automatons. Dragons. A government coverup. And… magic paint? Anyway, just started this, so no insights yet, but I’m optimistic!

Up Next

• Salvation – by Peter F. Hamilton

What will be my 3rd Hamilton novel, Salvation features an entire galaxy ripe for the taking, and a colonization of planets stretching unchecked across the stars. Unchecked, that is, until a mysterious disaster that hints of a threat mankind might have somehow overlooked. A menace that might just prove their downfall.

Other Stuff

I actually have a science fiction review coming out tomorrow, so there’s that. There’s some political stuff going on, which I’m going to avoid talking about… past saying that this election is indicative as to why the two-party system really doesn’t work. And why we need to take third parties more seriously. And that’s it for that.

Almost have finished Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. I’m maybe 80 hours in, almost done with the main story, still glut with side quests, and I’m only now starting to get sick of it. I’d certainly recommend it, if you’re looking for a good game on the cheap (I’ve been playing the PS3 version) or you could try the re-release for the current systems.

COVID continues to ravage the Mountain West states, as Montana has been posting around 1000 new cases a day for the past two weeks! Yesterday we just posted a record 1214 new cases. This week at least 30 of the 50 people I worked with tested positive. Considering we’ve a population of barely a million, this is staggering. And while a fair amount of people are crying panic, it seems more (around here) are just content to ignore it. Putting aside every political belief for a second, I just can’t believe this is happening. Not only here, but around the country. I… I can’t even think of what to say about it.

My anxiety has been crazy lately. With everything that’s going on, I just want to lock my doors and hide in the corner. I haven’t been sleeping well or getting much reading done. I’m firmly in the camp that we all need to hide in doors and go out as little as possible, but the incoming administration in my state vehemently disagrees. So… I’ll power through—at least for now—but something has to change. Soon.

Hope the rest of y’all are keeping safe! And for my international friends and followers: I love you guys, please don’t come visit. It sucks here.

On Tap 8/09

I’m not even going to talk about the world right now. It’s still there. And full of people. Anyhow, reading:

Currently Reading

• Vengeful – by V.E. Schwab

Sequel to Vicious regards individuals that escaped death, but came back changed; extraordinary. Just not necessarily good. Jeremy Arthur is doing his best to bring this to life thus far, though the ultimate plot has yet to evolve. Unless it’s just wossname dying—in which case… meh.

• Every Sky a Grave – by Jay Posey

Planetary assassins wielding ancient power take center stage in this universe-spanning space-opera. Just getting back into it after a month away.

Up Next

• Havenfall – by Sara Holland

An Inn at the crossroads of four realms and a girl sworn to protect it. But when a dead body is found, Maddie must solve the mystery of the death before the peace is broken.

Gaming

• No Man’s Sky

Yeah, I waited for a bunch of the free updates before trying this. I’m hoping it’ll prove more of a successor to one of my all-time favs, EV Nova. So far, there’s a lot of exploration, a lot of crafting, but not much of any kind of guidance, like a plot. Not that it’s bad, but… am I missing something?

On Tap 6/16

Currently Reading

• The Tattered Banner – by Duncan M. Hamilton

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

• Every Sky a Grave – by Jay Posey

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

• The Poacher’s Son – by Paul Doiron

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

Up Next

• After Atlas – by Emma Newman

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

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

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

Life

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

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

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

Music Monday – My Top 5 Video Game Tracks

Video games are great. Some games I’ve completed with a sense of accomplishment, others with a sense of relief, and still more feeling a mixed bag. Some games I never even complete. But it’s the best ones I keep coming back to. Those with a wonderful sense of fulfillment, amazing gameplay, an immersive and incredible story—among other things. A kickass soundtrack may not get me to play a game, but it definitely doesn’t hurt.

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

Anyway, here are my Top 5 tracks from games:

  1. After the Crash / First and Last (Michael McCann) – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

If you checked in on last week’s post, you may know that I play this soundtrack a lot. Like, a lot.While my favorite song remains After the Crash, the other standout for me is First and Last. After the Crash plays in the background during a fight that determines the fate of Faridah Malik, an instance that can result in the trophy ‘Good Soul’. Now if you were to, say, try for this trophy on the hardest setting, while simultaneously attempting the ‘Pacifist’ and ‘Foxiest of Hounds’ run-throughs (achievements where you can’t kill anyone or set off any alarms, respectively), you may very well hear this track played a lot. So it’s even more important that it’s amazing.

First and Last plays at the very start of the game, during the opening sequence. It’s my runner-up here—as I’ve listened to it second most to After the Crash—but it really could’ve gone to any other song off the soundtrack.

2. Honor for All (Daniel & Jon Licht) – Dishonored

Another of my favorite games, at least in the most recent generations of consoles, is Dishonored. Another game featuring a run-thru on the highest difficulty, featuring a play style that rewards you for not killing anyone, and just stealthing through the entire game. Honor for All comes during the credits, and is one of the songs I started listening to on repeat then immediately went and bought the download. As far as I know, the track was written specifically for this game.

3. Song of Storms – Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The Ocarina of Time is a revered game. It’s probably my favorite of all time, and not just because I’ve completed it half a dozen times over the years. The exploration, the story and the soundtrack alone rank highly all time—not just in its era. There are many great tunes within, but my all-time fav has to be the Song of Storms. Found in Kakariko Village, the dude within the windmill teaches this song to Link to play on his ocarina when he wants to summon rain. Released in 1998, this song has been stuck in my head for 22 years, and I still love it.

4. The Nathan Drake Theme (Greg Edmonson) – Uncharted

Uncharted is one of the best-selling franchises of all-time. And was the driving force behind me switching from Xbox to Playstation about a decade ago. The series is combat heavy, which isn’t usually my thing, but—first and foremost—aims to tell a story. A story of a man, of a journey. And that journey is incredible. While the music may not be telling in its own right, listen to it along with the games and it takes on a narrative of its own. For fans like moi, even hearing it outside the game is often enough to send chills up my spine.

5. Erana’s Peace – Quest for Glory: So You Want to be a Hero

Whether you’ve played the original or the remaster (or, most likely, neither), Quest for Glory is a true masterpiece of Sierra adventures. A point-and-click game with a text-parsing interface and fairly decent (for the time, at least) combat system. Now, I was too young to actually play this when it came out, but when I did, it was the original I played, and therefore the soundtrack from Erana’s Peace—which features a tranquil meadow complete with a tree of juicy, color-shifting, totally not weird fruit—strikes a cord in me. Even if it comes out of crappy speakers that never seemed to work right and were always getting broken. The guitar rendition from the remaster is okay, but though I’ve been through the game maybe a dozen times, I’ve never played that version. So the original soundtrack remains my favorite.

Anything to add? Anything to subtract? Anyone else play QFG? Or maybe you’ve played any of these other games? If so, let me know. Otherwise, maybe just listen to video game soundtracks for the rest of the day 🙂

Book Loot – May Edition

After I stockpiled a bunch of books last month to see me through this new illness and my social distancing plans this summer (it’s not really a COVID thing, I’m introverted every summer) (most of the year, actually), this month I really didn’t get much. Didn’t buy a single book, even. While I didn’t get a lot of book loot, I DO go on a rant about one of the games I got this month. So, that’s mildly interesting.

ARCs for June

By Force Alone – by Lavie Tidhar (6/16)

Ye gods this book. A grimdark retelling of the Arthurian legend, it’s definitely nailed the darkness. TBH I hate every character in this book. That I’ve read so far, at least. And there haven’t been that many, as I can’t get into it. It’s just… bad. I’ve tried four separate times and haven’t yet surpassed 10%. It’s certainly looking like a DNF at this point. Although I don’t usually review DNFs on here, I’ll do a group DNF here sometime soon, but maybe check out Rebecca’s over at Powder & Page in the meantime? It’s only slightly more flattering than mine will be.

The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot – by Josh Gottsegen (6/23)

As a young chipmunk, shy, bookish Rockford T. Honeypot had dreams of thrilling adventures across the forest. However, timid of danger and germs, his only adventures were found in books and his imagination. When his family abandons him after a mistake that destroys their hazelnut business, Rockford sets off on a legendary journey beyond his wildest dreams.

Honestly, it sounds like some kind of reluctant adventurer meets Redwall scenario. A middle-grade book, I’ll probably start it after I finish (or bin) By Force Alone.

The Kingdom of Liars – by Nick Martell (6/23)

Originally scheduled for release on May 5th, it’s been pushed back, which gives me more time to read it! I actually only snagged a copy after hearing some friends‘ reviews, which was lucky enough considering it should’ve been published before I had a chance. Years earlier, Michael was accused of murdering the king’s only son. By his own father. Branded a traitor and cast out of society, now he robs the rich, but is desperate for a way to reclaim his old life. In a world where magic costs memories, Michael must survive a civil war between magic and technology, with a family dictatorship standing atop the throne.

Purchases

None!

Games

AC: Syndicate

After I sank nearly 130 hours into AC: Odyssey, I figured I’d go back in time a little. Turns out Syndicate was on sale this month so I got it for $9. Woot! I’ve always wanted to play it, so everything works out.

The Sinking City (aka: the rant)

A title from Sherlock Holmes publisher Frogwares, the Sinking City is a Lovecraftian horror game revolving around war vet and gumshoe Charles W. Reed. Now, I’d been after this one for a while. I almost got it when it came out, but the price was a bit steep. Finally found it on sale this month and… I’m still a little disappointed. I’d heard it wasn’t great, so my expectations weren’t high. So, good news first: The detective aspects are its best feature. There’s no handholding, no line that you can follow around that shows you exactly where to go and who to talk to and what to look for. There are hints—but they’re few and far between. This is mostly rewarding, but sometimes irritating as heck. For better or worse, it’s up to you to solve the crimes, and rely on your own thought-process to do so.

Now the bad news. First off, the game plays like a PS3 version ported to a PS4. It lags a fair amount, especially between areas. The graphics aren’t up to snuff. The people are pretty good, but they mostly reminded me of the NPCs in Skyrim; one expression, constant waving their arms, repeating the same lines over and over. The game is set in Oakmont, a city cut off from the States by an epic flood. Despite the game world being quite large, it isn’t very interactive. Most of the buildings are inaccessible, and several more can only be entered during specific missions. When they end, so does the access. There are several different areas, each supposed to represent a different people and culture. Instead it looks like the same block repeated over and over. There’s a little variation, but not much. And since you can only enter maybe one building per block, it matters little. The platforming is awful. You can’t jump, only mantle, and only in certain places. And you don’t fall gracefully. Even if you just walk off the curb, it’s either a predescribed falling motion—complete with a comical “oof”, which you definitely take damage from, no matter the height—or you just glitch to the bottom. The combat, if anything, is worse.

It’s a detective game—the combat seems to’ve been added as an afterthought. It’s point and shoot. Nothing more. There’s a auto-aim system that snaps to the target’s… groin. With the amount of damage done by each shot, and the scarcity of ammunition—it’s worse than useless. And since the auto-aim snaps to every enemy’s gut every time, you can’t really aim yourself. I mostly just ran away. And then stopped playing.

Wrap-up

So… next month should be busy. I have a backpacking trip scheduled with friends—all of which have backed out. And the place is reservation only (since it’s fairly popular), so I’ll have to go somewhere else. Dunno if I will. We’ll see. Lots of books to read, though. The amount and quality of books coming out in July is staggering. Unless they get delayed.

As usual, lemme know if you’ve read or played any of these, or are looking forward to anything else. I’d love to hear! Or maybe if you’re going on holiday anywhere fun. Or… is that a thing this year? Or are we just staying home and drinking? Let me know!

Book Loot – April Edition

Went a little rogue this month after the library’s online catalogue got a little bit hammered, and I got a wee bit of stir-crazy burnout going. With a staggering amount of delays and postponements, I may actually get to most of my ARCs in time for release. If I recover from the burnout, that is. And since I’m off til at least May—and likely longer since large gatherings of children probably won’t be well-received for a while—this seems unlikely, at best. But whatever.

ARCs for May

Firewalkers – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (5/12)

Many thanks to Rebellion for the ARC! I can only hope this is as good as Walking to Aldebaran last year. With Tchaikovsky, it’s easy to just assume so and go from there. […]

The Bayern Agenda – by Dan Moren

While technically not an ARC, the good people at Angry Robot had provided me with the second book of the series but upon hearing I hadn’t yet read the first, were kind enough to throw that in as well! As usual, many thanks to them! The Bayern Agenda features a futuristic cold war, a compromised team, and a benched agent that must come through in the clutch.

The Aleph Extraction – by Dan Moren (5/12)

Still reeling from the events of the first book, the team is sent out on another improbable mission: to steal an alien artifact from a crime lord before their cold war rivals get to it first. Sounds like a good thriller, hopefully the first one will inspire me to read them back-to-back! Once again many thanks to Angry Robot for the ARC!

Purchases

To Be Taught, If Fortunate – by Becky Chambers

One of my top TBR for 2020, TBT,IF combines terraforming with post-humanizing to create, well, something in between but new altogether! I’ve heard mixed things about this one, but’ve wanted to read it since its release, so here we are. Both this and Where Gods Fear to Go narrowly escaped the UK before to stopped shipping out and I’m thrilled to have them!

Where Gods Fear to Go – by Angus Watson

The exciting conclusion to the West of West trilogy finds the combined forces of mostly good and somewhat good nearly upon their destination of the Meadows. But, between them and their destinies lie the Shining Mountains—seeming endless and uncrossable mountains populated by telekinetic sasquatches. Yeah, you read that right.

Age of Empyre – by Michael J. Sullivan

The final entry in the Legends of the First Empire series is nigh! And as each of the previous two has ended in a cliffhanger, I can hardly wait to read this! Suri holds the key to the world. Or does she? And if humanity can’t rescue her, will there be anything left worth saving?

Audio

Skyward – by Brandon Sanderson

What promises to be my… 18th? Sanderson book, Skyward is a YA Scifi series about a defeated human race in a constant battle for their survival against an alien threat. While I won’t catch up to most of the planet in number of Sanderson books read with this series, it will still put me roughly… 18 ahead of Tammy.

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows – by John August

The third Arlo Finch book wasn’t quite as good as the first two, but still worth a go. While brining his father home through the Long Woods may have seemed like a good idea, Arlo quickly discovers it’s much more complicated than just that. There are many changes in this entry, and much to discuss. Review soon.

Retribution Falls – by Chris Wooding

While I loved the Ember Blade when I read it last year, Wooding’s been on my TBR for years before that. This steampunk action-adventure follows the Ketty Jay and her captain, Frey, as he somehow goes from nuisance pirate to public enemy #1 in an afternoon.

The Society of the Sword Trilogy – by Duncan M. Hamilton

Long on my TBR, the Tattered Banner begins the Society of the Sword trilogy—which just happened to be on sale this week. And since I figured a trilogy such as this was probably worth $5 (hoping, at least), and since I have some time—thought it was time to give it a go. In a world where magic is outlawed, ability with a sword can accomplish all one’s dreams. Soren wears his on his sleeve, and when he is chosen to join the illustrious Society, it’s the answer to his prayers. But like most opportune fortune, this may prove to be more than meets the eye…

Free Stuff!

Forsworn – by Brian McClellan

I’ve actually read a decent portion of Forsworn already—in pieces—but Brian McClellan has helpfully offered up a free copy to anyone adversely affected by COVID, and for once that didn’t feel terrible about taking him up on that. Technically, both the collection of short stories (which I already have) and the collected novellas (which I’ve read 3 or 4) are free to download, I only needed the one to complete my collection. If you or anyone you know has been hurt by the virus or the lockdown, send them over HERE to collect some free books. Many, many thanks to Brian McClellan for the reading material!

In the Village Where Brightwine Flows, A Wasteland of My God’s Own Making & The Doors at Dusk and Dawn – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

I’ve mentioned it before, but Bradley Beaulieu is giving away Shattered Sands novellas on his site every Monday during lockdown, and it’s given me a chance to catch up on the ones I had missed. While I’ve only just started Brightwine, all promise to be unique glimpses into the Shangazi, with interesting tidbits of lore attached. If you haven’t read any, nor picked up A Wastle of God’s Own Making this week, I’d recommend them. Many thanks to Bradley Beaulieu, just one of many authors being amazingly generous with their work so that we all make it through this in one piece.

Tales of Beedle the Bard – by J.K. Rowling

An audio freebie, Tales of Beedle the Bard are a sort of wizarding faerie tales alluded to in Harry Potter. If you don’t know what I mean, read Harry Potter. If you’ve read it already, you should know what this is. If you don’t and don’t want to, you’ve already mentally checked out of this and I’m just rambling at this point so it doesn’t matter what I say and I’m hungry and tired and bored but whatever.

Gaming

Finished AC: Odyssey this week. Took me 135 hours but I platinumed the main game—even did a little DLC as well. Now I have all this free time, and all these audiobooks to get through! Whatever shall I do??

Get more games, of course!

I picked up the Metro Exodus Season Pass at discount to play Sam’s Story, something I’ve been excited about ever since I first heard they were working on it. You play as Sam as he battles his way across Russia with the hope of finally returning home. If you don’t know what I’m talking about maybe give the Metro 2033 a try? Either the book or the game, really. Or just humor me: nod and smile. While the first two games (and three books) were set in the confines of the Moscow Metro tunnels, Exodus gives you the ability to actually traverse the wartorn world. Exodus got generally positive reviews, but drew a mixed bag from existing fans. I quite enjoyed it, though the open world and non-linearity meant a less immerse game world, and detracted from the overall horror experience. But since I find horror boring and the game was beautiful AND fun… Well. You also get the Two Colonels, which I’ve heard mixed things about, but hey, can’t be too bad, right?

So… a lot to keep occupied this month. Hopefully it works! I’m skeptical that the world will get back to “normal” anytime soon, but maybe it’ll prove me wrong. In the news, people continue to be stubborn idiots—which is why I don’t watch the news. I still don’t (think I) have the virus and I hope y’all are safe too! There’s a lot going on in the world lately and I hope you lot know I appreciate you and what this outlet means to me. So, if you’ve read or played or listened to or heard of any of the preceding and would like to talk about them, let me know! If you want to talk books or add me on playstation drop me an email or a comment. Otherwise, thanks for stopping by and thanks for looking out!

Also: allergies. Anyone else got them? I was kinda hoping that they’d be less awful this year, but I appear to be SOL.

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 02/28

Currently Reading

• The Bone Ships – by R.J. Barker

People of the Hundred Isles have long built their ships from dragon bones. But longer ago, dragons disappeared from the land. But now a lone dragon appears in far off waters, and the bounty is out on its head. For whomever claims it shall win not only glory, but more. An ARC I didn’t get to last year returns this year as an audiobook.

• A Man of Shadows – by Jeff Noon

A truly weird mystery set in a city split by light and darkness. John Nyquist pursues a girl through brilliance and shadow, while in her wake an invisible murderer strikes, terrifying those that inhabit the city of the sun. But the girl may hold the key to stopping the murderer, if Nyquist can only reach her first. Jeff Noon’s apparently known for weird, but after 100 pages I can honestly tell you that not even my strangest dreams could’ve rivaled this world. And in this case that’s a really good thing.

• Brightstorm – by Vashti Hardy

A kids’ book about a brother-sister adventure team. When their father is lost while trying to reach South Polaris, it costs the Brightstorm twins more than a dad. They lose their home, livelihood and welfare, all based on the suspicion that their father sabotaged a fellow adventurer. Now Arthur and Maudie look to reclaim their family honor—by reaching South Polaris and finding the truth. What can I say—it’s not too deep or anything, but it’s a kids’ book. It’s an exciting, fun adventure!

Up Next

• Blood of Empire – by Brian McClellan

As the final battle between Fatrasta and the Dynize looms large, a spy, a mercenary and a faded war hero must band together to defend the continent—and keep the invaders from using the Godstones to create new gods. While one rides at the head of a new army, another must infiltrate the Dynize all on their own, while the third invades Dynize at the head of a scattered fleet of lancers. It took waaay too long for me to get to this and I’m ready to read it damnit!

Still have some more ARCs to get through before mid-March, so my next digital book will be one of them. I’ve two science fiction adventures and a rare non-fiction book to get into yet!

Gaming

Mutant Year Zero

A combination of stealth, tactics and mutants, Mutant Year Zero has been quite the addiction lately. I’m not a huge fan of turn-based combat, but I do love the stealth required by this game. That said—it’s hard. If you try it, prepare to die a lot. I mean, A LOT. Sure, you can play on Normal, where your squad heals after combat, but what fun is that? As long as you prepare before each encounter and whittle the enemy down by picking off the outliers using stealth, you can keep the deaths to a minimum. The story isn’t the most immersive consistently, but cut-scenes fill in enough of it that you don’t get too detached from what’s going on. Hopefully it picks up later on though.

On Tap 2/11

Currently Reading

The Last Smile in Sunder City – by Luke Arnold

The Last Smile in Sunder City is the debut novel by actor Luke Arnold (he played Long John Silvers on Black Sails). It’s the tale of misplaced hope in a dark world where all hope—along with all the magic—is gone, and formerly magical creatures while away their remaining years alive before time takes them like the dust they’ve become. It’s very uplifting.

Actually just finished this one. Not much to say about it but that it’s a solid 4-star book and you’ll have to check back to hear my thoughts. Pretty good!

The Hazel Wood – by Melissa Alberts

Another darker take on fairy tales, but instead of reworking a classic, Albert’s gone and made up her own. It’s pretty good so far, in an awkward teen kinda way. I just grabbed this from my library recently, but it’s not too hard to get into. Plus the reader’s alright, though not amazing.

Up Next

I’m looking to get a jump on next month’s ARCs—as there’re 5 alone coming out the week of the 15th (Ravencaller, Liquid Crystal Nightingale, Brightstorm, etc) (I also have a copy of By Force Alone, which supposedly comes out in the UK in March, though isn’t released in the US until the summer, so I’ll probably wait on that), but I haven’t decided on any specifics. I also have a few overdue ones to burn through still, so hopefully whatever I read will help one of those aims. And be good. If it’s not good, I probably won’t stay with it.

Gaming

I don’t get into gaming as much as I thought I might when I first started out. A big thing in gaming is to stream your games, or at least have clips where you talk about them—at least those’re things my friends are usually on about—but well, I personally hate the sound of my voice recorded, so. Yes, yes, I know everyone hates how they sound on film. But I just sound bored and kinda stoned. So it’s not happening.

Anyway, lately I’ve been working through The Surge. It’s… frustrating. I’m not a huge From Software/Dark Souls kinda guy, and I don’t hate my life enough to waste it on difficult, annoying, repetitive fighting and dying. So I doubt I’m going to finish it. Next up is probably Mutant Year Zero, if you’re into that. If not—or you’re not into gaming at all—please ignore this. There’re some book things above and many more book things in the future.

So, what’re you reading now? Or playing? Have you been through any of what I’ve mentioned here, and if so, how’d you like them? Let me know!