May 2022

I finished 10 books in April, somehow! I mean, three were novellas and only one was over 400 pages, but at around 3000 pages this was still this was my most impressive month to date. Of course, a fall always follows the high.

My first burnout of the year comes here, in late April entering May. Hopefully it’s not a bad one, more something of the “I don’t wanna read I wanna play video games and go to sleep” (although mostly it’s been “I don’t want to read because sleeeeepy”), which is something I deal with every now and then. I don’t think it’s the quality of what I’m reading right now that’s making me feel this way, but one never can tell, you know? With that in mind…

Currently Reading

I actually got quite a big jump on May as I knew it’d be impossible to read all the ARCs I wanted to otherwise. As it is…—it’ll just be tight. I’ve actually finished four of my six advance copies for the month, somehow. I just started the Collarbound, and am greatly enjoying every description of the world and its people that has come up thus far. Little in the way of story yet—but hey, I just started it. More problematic, I can’t remember the name of the damned city. Also just started Hunger of the Gods, something that was shelved for waaay longer than I’d’ve liked. Do any of you have that thing where you overhype something so much that you actually dread starting it? Think that’s what’s happening here. I just refreshed my memory from the end of Shadow of the Gods only to find that there’s a recap at the beginning of Hunger—something I did not expect. Would’ve loved to have known that was there before, but that’s a totally ridiculous thing to complain about, innit?

ARC

Friend of the Devil – by Stephen Lloyd (5/10)

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1980’s New England. The boarding school Danforth Putnam sits upon an island in the Atlantic. Joining the elite with orphans of the state, the school is the perfect metaphor of a melting pot. One that just won’t seem to ever meld. When an 11th century manuscript goes missing, insurance agent Sam Gregory is called in to recover it. But his investigation uncovers more than just a stolen book. Missing students, a ward obsessed with witchcraft, a shadowy cult, and a ritual to summon a demon top the list. And there’s more to the case than even all that.

Check back for my review of Friend of the Devil on Tuesday, May 3rd!

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor – by Xiran Jay Zhao (5/10)

Zachary Ying #1

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Zachary Ying never had many opportunities to learn about his Chinese heritage. His single mom was busy enough making sure they got by, and his schools never taught anything except Western history and myths. So Zack is woefully unprepared when he discovers he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission: sealing the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open.

The mission takes an immediate wrong turn when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Now, with one of history’s most infamous tyrants yapping in his headset, Zack must journey across China to heist magical artifacts and defeat figures from history and myth, all while learning to wield the emperor’s incredible water dragon powers.

And if Zack can’t finish the mission in time, the spirits of the underworld will flood into the mortal realm, and he could lose his mom forever.

Check back for my review of Zachary Ying on Tuesday, May 10th!

The Collarbound – by Rebecca Zahabi (5/12)

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The Collarbound, debut fantasy by Rebecca Zahabi, imagines a world of magic users, slaves, and second-class citizens. The Kher have been oppressed within the realm for generations, seen as little more than animals by most of its citizens. But all that might be changing. A rebellion once confined to the opposite side of the Shadowpass is now steadily making its way towards the city, just as a mage with a Kher brand enters it. Here she will meet a mage bought and sold as a slave, and together they must survive the coming war, or die apart.

Equinox – by David Towsey (5/12)

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Christophor Morden lives in a world where everybody changes with the rising and setting of the sun. For every person contains two distinct identities – a day brother and a night brother. One never sees the light, the other nothing of night. When Christophor is summoned by the King of Reikova, to visit a prisoner held beneath the keep, he assumes the man is a witch, or magic of some sort. After all, Morden is a witch hunter, one of the Kingdom’s finest, with 34 caught witches to his name. But when he enters the cell, Morden is confronted by young man, one who has torn his own eyes out. Eyes, that had teeth growing behind them.

Now Christophor is tasked with rooting out the source of such a curse, deep to the south, in the village of Drekenford. But the longer he spends in the village the more he is worried by the case. One that has his day-brother, Alexander, intentionally sheltering the witch he seeks.

Check back for my review of Equinox on Sunday, May 8th!

The Stardust Thief – by Chelsea Abdullah (5/17)

The Sandsea Trilogy #1

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Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

Hide – by Kiersten White (5/24)

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The game: Spend one week hiding in an abandoned amusement park. 7 days, 14 contestants. Two eliminated per day. $50,000 awaits the winner.

Mack aims to be that winner. She’s more worried about the competition, rather than the hiding. After all, hiding is the reason she’s still alive—and her family isn’t. But as the days crawl by, Mack realizes that she’ll have more than just other people to contend with. Something strange is going on inside the park—and she’s not sure that any amount of money is worth staying.

Check back for my review of Hide on Sunday, May 22nd!

Other Releases

Eyes of the Void – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (5/03)

The Final Architecture #2

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After eighty years of fragile peace, the Architects are back, wreaking havoc as they consume entire planets. In the past, Originator artefacts – vestiges of a long-vanished civilization – could save a world from annihilation. This time, the Architects have discovered a way to circumvent these protective relics. Suddenly, no planet is safe.

Facing impending extinction, the Human Colonies are in turmoil. While some believe a unified front is the only way to stop the Architects, others insist humanity should fight alone. And there are those who would seek to benefit from the fractured politics of war – even as the Architects loom ever closer.

Idris, who has spent decades running from the horrors of his past, finds himself thrust back onto the battlefront. As an Intermediary, he could be one of the few to turn the tide of war. With a handful of allies, he searches for a weapon that could push back the Architects and save the galaxy. But to do so, he must return to the nightmarish unspace, where his mind was broken and remade.

What Idris discovers there will change everything.

A Sh*tload of Crazy Powers – by Jackson Ford (5/10)

Frost Files #4

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Teagan Frost has enough sh*t to deal with, between her job as a telekinetic government operative and a certain pair of siblings who have returned from the dead to wreak havoc with their powers. But little does she know, things are about to get even more crazy…

Teagan might have survived the flash flood of the century, but now she’s trapped in a hotel by a bunch of gun-toting maniacs. And to make matters worse, her powers have mysteriously disappeared. Faced with certain death at every turn, Teagan will need to use every resource she has to stop a plot that could destroy Los Angeles – maybe even the entire world.

Book Purchases

Annex – by Rich Larson

The Violet Wars #1

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At first it is a nightmare. When the invaders arrive, the world as they know it is destroyed. Their friends are kidnapped. Their families are changed.

Then it is a dream. With no adults left to run things, Violet and the others who have escaped capture are truly free for the first time. They can do whatever they want to do. They can be whoever they want to be.

But the invaders won’t leave them alone for long…

Those Above – by Daniel Polansky

The Empty Throne #1

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Those Above has been on my TBR for years, but I only recently managed to acquire a copy. Still not sure when exactly I’ll get around to it, but it was on sale from the same vendor that I used to get Annex, as well as a couple other holes I had filling my shelves, so I figured why not? Those Above examines the gods above. Tall, superhuman, perfect, and near immortal, they have ruled over humanity for thousands of years. Millennia of oppression enforced with fire and sword. Until humanity rose an army to unseat them. Only to fail miserably.

Now, hate festers still. And even though their last revolt was summarily crushed not thirty years prior, rebellion once more kindles in its ashes.

I may or may not get my teeth into these this month, but do come back for upcoming reviews of A Defensive Guide to Baking, Haunting of Tram Car 015, Hidden (Alex Verus #5), The Jasmine Throne, and hopefully more!

Music

There’s not a whole lot of music out this month that I’m super excited about. At least, not in advance. Maybe when they come out they’ll really impress me, or maybe I’ll warm up to them, or maybe I’ll just find something completely different to fall in love with, but right now… I’m a little underwhelmed by everything on offer.

The electronic Lights Out from Cassetter is probably my most anticipated album of the month, due on May 20th, but I probably won’t pick it up anytime soon. It’s not bad, it’s just not mind-blowing. Just found out they’re Polish though, so that’s cool.

The Halestorm album Back from the Dead releases on May 6th. Neither song blew me away, so I went with the first single instead of the most recent one.

There’s also a Three Days Grace album—Explosions—due out on the 6th, so here’s a single from that as well.

Games

Still on the Cyberpunk 2077 train, though I’ve just bought the remake of Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town—my favorite game in the series—so I’ll likely be onto that soon enough. It even came with this adorable plush cow (which was originally supposed to be a pre-order incentive, but I guess they had extras).

Anyway, I have that and Cyberpunk, maybe some DLC and other things to tide me over til Sniper Elite V drops on May 26th! The previous entry (set in Italy) was one of my favorite games of all time; one of the rare games I stuck around long enough to platinum after pouring 163 hours into it (Cyberpunk is closing on this though: I’m up to 112 hours now). #5 is set in France and is supposed to feature bigger, more open world maps—which is impressive considering 4’s maps were pretty large and varied.

Life

Not sure how much I’ll post this summer, as I’ve a fair amount going on. Wedding, backpacking, bachelor party, wedding, wedding, and well probably a good deal more besides. The only thing I’m not locked down for is work, which I’m increasingly certain is just freezing me out. I hate the job hunt, though, so I’m trying to put it off as long as possible while my hours slowly bleed away to nothing. I do have a fair few side gigs on the books for April and May (so cash won’t be an issue, until June at least when they all dry up). I really don’t want to work an 8-5 as (historically) they’re not great for my mental health, but I suppose we’ll cross that bridge once we get to it. Or caulk the wagon and float it across :p

Have any plans for May? What about June, July, and later? Is your month as busy as mine looks? And do you recognize any of these books? I always love to hear from y’all!

April 2022

Honestly I’ve been pretty good about keeping up on ARCs this year, and the last couple months have not been absolutely packed with new releases that have been on my radar, so I might actually be able to get some additional TBR in. Right now, I’m actually reading the Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri, which has been on my immediate list since it came out about a year past. In other news, the Alex Verus reread is going along well, and we’re on track to try Book #4, Chosen, this month! I restrained myself with new ARCs and requests again this month, and will hopefully use this to get a leg up on some of my summer reading. But then, if I do try to conquer both TBR and advance-advance copies, I’ll probably end up dropping the ball on both haha!

So without further stalling…

Currently Reading

I’ve a true three book rotation going at the moment. Finally picked up The Jasmine Throne (on audiobook), to read while playing Cyberpunk (which I’ll get to later). In addition, I have a pair of ARCs I got an early start on—Prison of Sleep (which I’ll get to later), and Equinox, by David Towsey (which is out in May). I’m really enjoying Jasmine Throne so far, and Equinox has an interesting feature where the same body has a different consciousness for the day- and night-cycles.

Somehow I managed another 8 books in March! Can’t imagine this will continue the entire year, but every month it does is a victory!

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The Bladed Faith – by David Dalglish (4/05)

Vagrant Gods #1

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When he was twelve years old, Prince Cyrus’ kingdom fell. His fleet was burned, his city taken, his gods killed, his parents beheaded. For the next two years he was held hostage to legitimize the Empire’s rule. Following his freedom, Cyrus is recruited into the fledgling resistance as a figurehead: a skull-masked, twin-bladed assassin set to drive the invaders from his shores. But the Vagrant is a heavy mantle, and Cyrus hasn’t properly healed from the attack that took his parents. And the more he learns about his family, his right to rule, his new role as the Vagrant—the more Cyrus questions his place in the rebellion.

I’ve actually already finished this. Look for a review tomorrow or Monday, and then a short Q&A with author David Dalglish on Tuesday!

The Hunger of the Gods – by John Gwynne (4/12)

Bloodsworn Saga #2

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Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.

As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.

Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her.

Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.

Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.

Mercury Rising – by R.W.W. Greene (4/12)

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In an alternate history where Kennedy didn’t die—the year is 1975. Thirty years prior, Oppenheimer invented the nuclear engine. Twenty, humans first set foot on the moon. Eighteen, Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives repelling the alien invaders.

So… in living, Kennedy doomed the planet eventually to aliens. Somehow.

Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated…

So… Kennedy also gave early rise to both Peter Quill AND Casey Jones? The multiverse is weird.

Prison of Sleep – by Tim Pratt (4/26)

Journals of Zaxony Delatree #2

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Once Zax was a lonely traveler, one who would wake up on a new world every time he fell asleep, but that was before he reunited with his lost love, Ana. And before everything fell apart once more.

Now Zax is back on his own, but he has a purpose this time: hunting down the cult that once more ruined his life, destroyed his happiness, and nearly killed him. Both Ana and Minna are lost to him—possibly killed—but Zax is stuck moving forward, always forward. Though the end is in sight. And once he discovers the Cult of the Worm… actually, he hasn’t thought that far ahead yet.

Something. Something epic.

Other Releases

One Foot in the Fade – by Luke Arnold (4/26)

Fetch Phillips #3

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Probably won’t get to Fetch Phillips #2 this month, so I probably won’t read #3 either. And the description of One Foot in the Fade is… vague. Like, it could describe any of the other novels in the series. So, instead of perpetuating this unhelpful bit, I’ll just post a link to my review of The Last Smile in Sunder City and say, it’s supposed to be something like more of that. Which sounds pretty good, to be honest.

Music

Just a couple of albums on my radar this month, though I’m sure we’ll get more as the month elapses. The Veer Union are a Canadian hard rock band out of Vancouver. I have… five of their albums? Manifestations is out April 8th. Shinedown, on the other hand, is a rock band from Jacksonville, Florida. This is their 7th album, and despite some of their previous stuff being… poor, early singles from this actually sound promising.

Gaming

So I’ve been playing Cyberpunk since it’s last next-gen update, and… well, it’s not terrible. Actually, it’s pretty good. I played it shortly after release and it glitched out before the Heist mission. I fell through the map and died, and each one of my saves started me underneath the pavement. Since then, I’ve kept my distance, but recently some of the gamers I follow have been talking it up, about how it’s actually decent to play now. And… well, I’ve also since upgraded to the PS5, so yeah.

I’ve put about 50 hours into it so far, and have very little trophy progress to show for it, which is pretty much the best thing I can say about Cyberpunk. I’ve mostly just been running around from one side mission to the next, doing a main story gig every now and then to keep invested. The story missions really try to hustle you along the main path, but much like the Witcher before it, when the game ends—it’s over. You can’t progress any further, can’t do anymore missions, or gigs or anything. So take your time. Which I’ve been doing. And it’s been pretty great!

There are still bugs. But they’re mostly just the funny kind where sometimes NPCs glitch into walls briefly. Especially after they’ve been knocked out. There was one where I ran into an oncoming truck on foot and it just disappeared. One where the Johnny-vision—where Silverhand’s consciousness clashes with yours—got stuck and kept going (it’s only supposed to last twenty seconds or so, but after 15 minutes it was still around. I just had to save and reload to get rid of it). There have been a few bugs that I’ve had to solve like this: save, then reload it. And they’re fine. Nothing gamebreaking yet.

Night City is vast. VAST. I will say that for the amount of doors, there aren’t a whole lot that you can open and explore. I really enjoyed this about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, where you could pretty much break into any Prague home and explore. Per capita, not nearly as much here in Cyberpunk. The game also doesn’t reward you for exploring like Deus Ex does. Occasionally you’ll come across some unique weapons’ dealer, or weird side-quest, or bit of random lore and lootables—I stumbled across a cave in the middle of the Badlands where there’d been some massacre, and the data shards laying about detailed a prisoner who’d harnessed a mech and gained his freedom—but don’t expect to run around picking locks or searching rooftops and sewers for interesting routes. That said, there are a lot of different routes you can take on missions. But only really on missions. I just did one mission where there were about a half dozen different stealth routes leading to the objective, along with a few more guns-blazing paths and the like.

Despite the bugs that are left, Night City is pretty. It’s not the most beautiful of games—partly due to the bugs, partly to the piles of trash everywhere (yay, the future)—but for an open-world sandbox, it’s really quite good.

I’m still relatively early on, so I can’t give a thumbs up or down yet, but I will say this much—it’s so much better than it was on release. Don’t know if I’d recommend buying it yet, but if you already own a copy, I’d certainly give it a go. The next-gen update is free, too, so if you bought a PS4 version like I did and have since upgraded consoles, your update is free. It’s worth the time I’ve spent on it lately, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d say when they first released it, but CD Projekt Red has really No Man’s Sky’ed this quite well. Here’s hoping they continue to do so.

March 2022

As predicted, I did not make it through another 9 books in February. I did, however, make it through 7—which is more than I’d’ve thought! In part this is because I picked up Empire of the Vampire, and in part that I didn’t read as many audiobooks, but I really shouldn’t complain. Not that that’s what I’m doing.

But thanks to my decent record of reading thus far this year, I actually have several posts already scheduled for this month. Please check back tomorrow for the conclusion of a trilogy, then later next week for something entirely new!

March brings the threat of spring to Montana, typically with more snow and rain and snow, but also the end of winter sports and a lag in my hours. I have a few tentative plans, but nothing I’m ready to commit to yet. First I’ll be worrying about completing the programs I’ve scheduled, getting through a bevvy of March birthdays, and finishing up a few long overdue reads:)

Currently Reading

I’m currently in a deep dive of Empire of the Vampire, which I’ve been working through on and off since December. I meant to read up to Part 3 then leave it, but the story has caught hold of me again such that I’m partway through Part 5 and aiming to maybe finish it here. (Just an FYI, the story DID capture my attention before, but I shelved it so I could read a few ARCs and other subsequent releases that I’d promised to get to in January and February.) Meanwhile, I’ve picked up the Harbor, but not yet started it. This is the third novel of Katrine Engberg’s Kørner & Werner detective series, where each subsequent release has been better than the last—so far, at least. Hopefully a trend that’ll continue!

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Stars and Bones – by Gareth L. Powell (3/01)

Stars and Bones #1

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Seventy-five years from today, the human race has been cast from a dying Earth to wander the stars in a vast fleet of arks—each shaped by its inhabitants into a diverse and fascinating new environment, with its own rules and eccentricities.

When her sister disappears while responding to a mysterious alien distress call, Eryn insists on being part of the crew sent to look for her. What she discovers on Candidate-623 is both terrifying and deadly. When the threat follows her back to the fleet and people start dying, she is tasked with seeking out a legendary recluse who may just hold the key to humanity’s survival.

Many thanks to Titan Books for the ARC!

Ogres – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (3/15)

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It’s always idyllic in the village until the landlord comes to call.

Because the landlord is an Ogre. And Ogres rule the world, with their size and strength and appetites. It’s always been that way. It’s the natural order of the world. And they only eat people sometimes.

But when the headman’s son, Torquell, dares lift his hand against the landlord’s son, he sets himself on a path to learn the terrible truth about the Ogres, and about the dark sciences that ensured their rule.

Many thanks to Rebellion/Solaris for the ARC! Expect a review out on the 8th!

Curfew – by Jayne Cowie (3/22)

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Imagine a near-future Britain in which women dominate workplaces, public spaces, and government. Where the gender pay gap no longer exists and motherhood opens doors instead of closing them. Where women are no longer afraid to walk home alone, to cross a dark parking lot, or to catch the last train.

Where all men are electronically tagged and not allowed out after 7 p.m.

But the curfew hasn’t made life easy for everyone. Sarah is a single mother who happily rebuilt her life after her husband, Greg, was sent to prison for breaking curfew. Now he’s about to be released, and Sarah isn’t expecting a happy reunion, given that she’s the reason he was sent there.

Her teenage daughter, Cass, hates living in a world that restricts boys like her best friend, Billy. Billy would never hurt anyone, and she’s determined to prove it. Somehow.

Helen is a teacher at the local school. Secretly desperate for a baby, she’s applied for a cohab certificate with her boyfriend, Tom, and is terrified that they won’t get it. The last thing she wants is to have a baby on her own.

These women don’t know it yet, but one of them is about to be violently murdered. Evidence will suggest that she died late at night and that she knew her attacker. It couldn’t have been a man because a CURFEW tag is a solid alibi.

Isn’t it?

Thanks to Tammy for putting this on my radar, and to Penguin and Berkley for granting me an ARC!

Seven Deaths of an Empire – by G.R. Matthews (3/29)

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The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.

General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.

Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession.

Once again, huge thanks to Rebellion/Solaris for the ARC! Expect a review out on the 22nd!

Other Releases

I actually controlled myself pretty well this month. That, and was rejected several books, which is practically the same thing. Here are a few more releases that I didn’t get copies of, but I still may pick up at some point. I know there are at least a few I’d be a fool not to consider. Fortunately, I’ve already made it through half of my scheduled ARCs for the month, so I should be able to check out at least one (while either reading some from the backlog, and/or tackling a few in advance of April or May. Not to mention this month’s Alex Verus reread of Taken, which I’ll probably get to near the twilight of March! Maybe it’ll even be warmish by then (though more likely we’ll just get more snow).

The Broken Room – by Peter Clines (3/01)

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Hector was the best of the best. A government agent that could cripple defenses and bring foreign governments to their knees. But when his own nation betrayed him, he walked away, he to return. Until, that is, Natalie.

Natalie can’t remember much of her life before, but she does remember the cages. Being taken to the Project with so many other children to be a part of their mysterious and questionable experiments. It’s because of them that Natalie is where she is, saddled with the ghost of a dead secret agent stuck in her head.

A ghost that Hector owes a debt.

Now that Natalie is on the run from the same Project that created her, Hector is pulled right back into life as an agent, though this is one conflict he can’t walk away from.

Gallant – by V.E. Schwab (3/01)

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When Olivia Pryor is called home to Gallant, she expects some kind of recognition, or greeting, from her family—greeting that does not come. But she’s not about to leave the only place she’s ever felt at home, nor return to Merilance School for Girls, where she ostensibly grew up in her mother’s absence. So, despite the cold reception, the hostility of her kin, or the half-formed ghouls haunting the place—Olivia remains. But when she traverses a ruined wall at just the right moment, she finds herself still in Gallant—yet not. Here, the ghouls are solid, the manor is crumbling, and a mysterious power fills the air. Yet which side of the wall will Olivia choose to make her home: with the mysterious power, or against it?

Last Exit – by Max Gladstone (3/08)

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More than a decade past, Zelda and her group of adventurers would use their specialized abilities to travel through alternate realities and attempt to destroy the black rot threatening the stability of these worlds. (Yeah, I know the setup to this seems a little weird, but just try to roll with it—it really starts sounding good soon.) That was before her lover and key partner, Sal, disappeared.

Ten years later, all but Zelda have moved on. But when she discovers proof that Sal is still alive, trapped in another reality, the others flock to her aid. Only now everything is different—both in the realities, and in the hearts of the walkers that traverse them.

Memory’s Legion – by James S.A. Corey (3/15)

Novella Omnibus

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The Expanse novella omnibus arrives in the form of Memory’s Legion, complete with one brand new tale—The Sins of Our Fathers, which takes place after the events of Leviathan Falls. As someone who still hasn’t made it to Leviathan Falls (not to mention Books #7 & 8 of the series, I’m still highly anticipating this return to the universe, as it might prove a welcome return for incomplete fans not to mention those that have already finished the series!

The City of Dusk – by Tara Sim (3/22)

The Dark Gods #1

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The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But each and every god has withdrawn their favor from the city, and without it at their center, each of the realms is dying in turn. Unwilling to stand by and watch their destruction, the four heirs unite to save the city, and their worlds besides. But the cost requires sacrifice, and their defiance will cost them infinitely more.

MUSIC

Just two album releases on my radar this month. The first comes from Shaman’s Harvest, a southern rock band from Jefferson City, Missouri. Their 11 piece album is out March 11 and, while I’m a bit concerned it may include more politically motivated music than any other album, maybe early singles won’t prove representative of the whole. Voices is my favorite single from the upcoming Rebelator thus far.

The second album release comes courtesy of Moonlight Haze—a symphonic, melodic, and power metal band native to Italy. I’m actually not all that familiar with Moonlight Haze, having just recently discovered them, so I can say with absolute certainty that the eleven-track Animus will be representative of their entire discography.

Gaming & Misc

Haven’t really been playing very much lately, but now that I’m set to start the Harbor, and I’ve installed and loaded up Cyberpunk 2077, it may be time to change that. I played this right when it released back a few years ago and it was a buggy and broken mess. But, since then there have been a lot of patches released, perhaps none more important than the most recent, which I have heard makes this an actual game worth playing versus a… thing that will probably make you put a controller through your TV (or mouse through your computer screen).

So, happy March! It’s the best month, after all;)

Chinese New Year 2022 – Year of the Tiger

恭喜發財!新年快樂!

The Year of the Tiger starts today, so if you’re celebrating I hope you have a good day! I was trying to decide what kinda New Year’s feast to have, but then I started having stomach issues, so it’s probably not going to happen. Even worse, there’s no moon cake!

But I’ll live.

It’s been a terrible January. Stress from my job, my family, my friends, my life… I’m really sick of it. Here’s hoping that this month (and this year) is better.

Currently Reading

Somehow I read NINE books in January. Don’t expect that to happen in February, Lunar New Year or not. I also DNFed one that I’ve mostly seen glowing reviews for. Currently I’m working on three books, which is my limit at once, provided each is in a different format.

For audio I’m reading The Butterfly House by Katrine Engberg, the second installment in the Kørner & Werner series (the 3rd is out later this month), which is included with subscription to Scribd—the audio streaming service that I’ve only recently discovered. I’ve just started Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham, which the lovely folks at Orbit were kind enough to send me a physical ARC of! It starts a new series which I’m very much looking forward to getting into; Book #1 here centering upon a woman named Alys. And finally there’s Return of the Whalefleet by Benedict Patrick, which I have early in ebook form via the Kickstarter that ran last summer. It’s the second book in the Darkstar Dimension, and one that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for some time (so much so that I couldn’t wait for my physical copy to arrive and decided to start it early).

ARC

Bluebird – by Ciel Pierlot (2/08)

Standalone

Goodreads

Many thanks to Angry Robot for the lovely and unexpected copy of Bluebird! I’m not sure when I’ll get to this one, but hopefully before Scifi Month in November. I’m not well versed on this, but I seem to remember there are four factions, one of which is Rig, a gunslinger, lesbian, and lone entity fighting against the control of all three others. Despite my disquiet surrounding this, the book may very well have the best cover of any releasing this month.

Dead Silence – by S.A. Barnes (2/08)

Standalone

Goodreads

A horror story. A ghost ship. A mystery that longs to be solved.

When the crew of a deep space maintenance ship stumble upon the ruins of a starship lost centuries ago under mysterious circumstances, their first thoughts are of how this will best line their pockets. After attempting to return the hulk to known space, however, they have very much different things on their mind.

So… I recently gave up on this one. For now, at least—I will try to revisit it later. The ghost ship and the mystery and the history are compelling—but the lead I cannot fathom. Claire just… shouldn’t be here. It’s beyond reason that anyone would have made her a captain, with her history. I know, I know, you haven’t read it. But I can’t not complain about this a little because I really wanted to like this and just… couldn’t.

Age of Ash – by Daniel Abraham (2/15)

Kithamar #1

Goodreads

The latest fantasy epic from Daniel Abraham starts in a city on the brink. Kithamar has remained free from three hundred years, but when their Prince suddenly dies, it may be high time for a change in power. Told from three perspectives—one in three different books, all set during the same time-frame—this is epic fantasy at its best. Or so I’ve heard.

Mickey7 – by Edward Ashton (2/15)

Standalone

Goodreads

After a mission gone very wrong, Mickey7 somehow returns to base to find that sometimes there are worse things than dying alone on an alien world. First among these is Mickey8, who is already out of the tank and sleeping in his bed. A clone and the colony’s only Expendable—the one human that gets all the most dangerous assignments and missions, because there’s always another where he came from—this might well be Mickey’s last mistake. The base’s commander already hates him, and that was before he laughed in the face of God by having two of himself. For philosophical and spiritual connotations aside, having two of oneself is NEVER a good thing. If there’s one bright spot, it’s that with Mickey’s job, he might just get lucky and die before anyone finds out. A funny thing to hope for.

Deepest of Secrets – by Kelley Armstrong (2/15)

Rockton #7

Goodreads

I only kinda skimmed this because I’m still on Book #5, but I’m pretty sure there’s another murderer in Rockton. Not too surprising when half the town are criminals, but inconvenient to say the least. As always, it’s up to the police force of 3 to bring the killer down, before the entire town turns on one another.

Diablo Mesa – by Preston & Child (2/15)

Nora Kelly / Corrie Swanson #3

Goodreads

Well, the spinoff has reached its third installment, and it’s already better than the main series itself. Probably a reason—but we won’t get into that. When Nora Kelly quits the Institute instead of heading a humiliating dig focused on aliens at Roswell, she manages to fall into a new gig almost immediately. And the first thing she has to do is… excavate the crash site in Roswell.

At least this time it pays better. And of course with a “conspiracy” this storied and phony, it’s not like it’ll be dangerous…

Other Releases

The Harbour – by Katrine Engberg (2/22)

Kørner & Werner #3

Goodreads

This third (in English, at least) entry in the Kørner & Werner Nordic noir crime series features another less than typical Copenhagen day in the world’s happiest country. I missing person, a worrying note, a potential murder, and no other leads for any of it. This is what confronts our pair this time and based on their past experiences… well, I’m not sure I’d anticipate the happiest of endings.

MUSIC

Two albums on my radar this month, but I’m sure there’re more plus singles I haven’t heard of yet. Finnish metal band Amorphis has a full-length album Halo coming on the 11th, and Australian celtic punk outfit The Rumjacks have a rather long EP, Brass for Gold, out the same day.

There’s also an Infamous Stringdusters album, Toward the Fray, releasing the next week, February 18th. I wasn’t in love with either of their first two singles off said album, but luckily I’m enjoying the 3rd one much more!

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to try to have something of my favorite songs released in the last month up, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen. Because me, because life, because effort. But I wanted to highlight songs by the Veer Union, Smash into Pieces, Wardruna, Shinedown, Infected Rain, Hermitude, and others. And hey, maybe it’ll happen;)

Gaming

I’ve been playing Biomutant lately, which—if you’ve heard anything about it all all—didn’t sell as well as expected on release because of publishing delays, poor pre-order incentives, somewhat repetitive combat, and a narrator who won’t shut up until your ears start to bleed.

I’ve been quite enjoying myself though, to be honest.

An open world adventure through the decaying ruins of the old world, you’re tasked with defeating the four Worldeaters, that are destroying the roots of the Tree of Life, which will result in the world’s destruction. Or… you could help them along, because the world is dying anyway, and nothing short of the end of everything is going to change that. The point is you have options.

You have the option to save or doom the world. You have the option to follow the main quest lines and unite the tribes, marshaling all forces under your rule to save/kill the Tree of Life and complete your destiny. You also have the option to get lost and wander around in the ruins of the old world, collecting loot and meeting interesting characters, while occasionally stumbling onto things from the main story (often entirely out of order), before resuming your globetrotting adventures in exploration. While I have no problem with doing the former options, I’ve primarily been doing the latter. In my defense, I get easily distracted, and the world itself is pretty and mutated and post-apocalyptic—and I really can’t resist that type of thing.

The narrator can be quite annoying and as he’s pretty much the only voice in the game, you’ll be hearing his voice A LOT interpreting everything or just inserting random comments because. You can turn his frequency down, which is quite nice—or, alternatively, you can just mute him entirely.

Otherwise, I have no complaints. I love adventure and exploration games, and I knew in advance that all I really had to do was put up with the narrator, so I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I’m only 23 hours in, but am hoping that I’ll get at least 60 total before I lose interest. Anything more than that would be a bonus. Anything less… well, I did get it on sale, at least.

MISC

In terms of plans for the month… I’ll pretty much be sticking to the schedule I’ve been following lately. Reviews Sunday and Tuesday, cover love on Thursdays (or I may switch that around and put the Beautiful World stuff on Tuesdays instead). My friend KK is still sending me the occasional review that I’ll be posting myself, randomly, and I may do some lists or musics or other things as well. I’ll also be doing a TBR sometime this month, but it’ll be more low key than what I was trying to do in years past.

Life-wise… I didn’t get fired. Which I kinda thought I would, so… yay! My direct boss left, and since I’ve just been filling a bunch of random positions under her I was worried I might just be left without anyone to report to, assign me shifts, or pay me. And while I don’t exactly have either of those first two worked out, I DO have someone to pay me—at least at first. I would be more worried, except I don’t really love my job anymore. There’s a lot of politicking recently and the focus has shifted from making sure everyone is having fun and being safe to making sure we’re making money and aren’t liable for anything bad that happens. But since I haven’t found anything better yet…

The last month sucked. Anxiety. Lots of it. Also gut and food and sleep troubles. Let’s not get into that. Here’s hoping that February is better! (Though I’m pretty sure everyone’s been saying that for the last two years straight…)

So what does everyone think of the books? Or the games? Oh, and what’s your lunar animal? I’m going to ask everyone this so don’t be surprised when it’s the first thing I follow up your comments with. I’m a rabbit. A FIRE rabbit. Pretty sure most rabbits don’t like being on fire, but whatever, maybe some Eurasian ones do? But uh anyway books and games and stuff…

October 2021

ARCs

A Dead-End Job – by Justin Alcala (10/5)

Goodreads

Death needs a vacation. There’s only one catch. Who’s going to do his job while he’s out? The answer is simple. Death needs to hire an intern. So, with the help of his I.T. Guy, Jumbo, the two look for a qualified candidate. It doesn’t take much to learn that their prospect, Buck Palasinski, could have what it takes. He’s a Chicago hitman that’s just been killed on the job. If they bring Buck back from death, he’ll have a few weeks to prove that he has what it takes to be Death’s right-hand man…that’s if he can kill the Underworld’s Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger.

A Spindle Splintered – by Alix E. Harrow (10/5)

Goodreads

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

I’ve finished this one, so there should be a review of it up in the next day or so. The short of it: not bad, not mind-blowing, an interesting reimagining of a classic faerie tale.

How to Forage for Mushrooms Without Dying – by Frank Hyman (10/12)

Goodreads

With the surging interest in foraging for mushrooms, those new to the art need a reliable guide to distinguishing the safe fungi from the toxic. But for beginner foragers who just want to answer the question “Can it eat it?”, most of the books on the subject are dry, dense, and written by mycologists for other mycologists.

How to Forage for Mushrooms without Dying is the book for anyone who walks in the woods and would like to learn how to identify just the 21 edible mushrooms they’re likely to come across. In it, Hyman offers his expert mushroom foraging advice, distilling down the most important information for the reader in colorful, folksy language that’s easy to remember when in the field. Want an easy way to determine if a mushroom is a delicious morel or a toxic false morel? Slice it in half – “if it’s hollow, you can swallow,” Hyman says. With Frank Hyman’s expert advice and easy-to-follow guidelines, readers will be confident in identifying which mushrooms they can safely eat and which ones they should definitely avoid.

Inhibitor Phase – by Alastair Reynolds (10/12 US • 8/26 UK)

Goodreads

Miguel de Ruyter is a man with a past.

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

Only something goes wrong.

There’s a lone survivor.

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

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

Every Star a Song – by Jay Posey (10/19)

Goodreads

Far in the future, human beings have seeded themselves amongst the stars. Since decoding the language of the universe 8,000 years ago, they have reached the very edges of their known galaxy and built a near-utopia across thousands of worlds, united and ruled by a powerful organization known as the Ascendance. The peaceful stability of their society relies solely on their use of this Deep Language of the cosmos.

Elyth—a former agent of the religious arm of the Ascendance, The First House—is on the run after the events of Every Sky a Grave, when she and the fugitive Varen Fedic exposed the darker side of Ascendance hegemony on a planet called Qel. Though she just wishes to put the past (and Varen) behind her, she is soon tracked and cornered by the Ascendance agents. Surprisingly, they aren’t there for punishment. Instead, they offer her a deal in exchange for her help in exploring a new planet that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. If she agrees, her sins against the Ascendance and the First House will be forgiven.

Elyth reluctantly agrees to join the team of elite agents (including some former allies-turned-enemies) but almost as soon as they touch down on the planet’s surface, things start to go awry. Strange sounds are heard in the wilderness, horrifying creatures are seen stalking the forests, and even the landscape itself seems to change during the night.

But as expedition members start dying, two things become clear: the planet is conscious, and it’s trying to kill them.

Other Releases

Blood of the Chosen – by Django Wexler (10/5 US • 10/14 UK)

Goodreads

Four hundred years ago, a cataclysmic war cracked the world open and exterminated the Elder races. Amid the ashes, their human inheritor, the Dawn Republic, stands guard over lands littered with eldritch relics and cursed by plaguespawn outbreaks. But a new conflict is looming and brother and sister Maya and Gyre have found themselves on opposite sides.

At the age of five, Maya was taken by the Twilight Order and trained to be a centarch, wielding forbidden arcana to enforce the Dawn Republic’s rule. On that day, her brother, Gyre, swore to destroy the Order that stole his sister… whatever the cost.

Twelve years later, brother and sister are two very different people: she is Burningblade, the Twilight Order’s brightest prodigy; he is Silvereye, thief, bandit, revolutionary.

Gyre finally sees a way to overthrow the all-powerful Twilight Order. But he’ll have to gain the alliance of both the ghouls and the human rebels to the south in order to even stand have a chance. And uniting them won’t be so simple.

His sister Maya is still a soldier of the Order. But after clashing with her brother, she isn’t so certain where her loyalties lie. Chasing the origins of a mysterious artifact to a long-lost library, she just might find the answers she’s looking for.

Radiants – by David B. Coe (10/15)

DeDe Mercer is a Radiant who can control other people’s thoughts, make them do what she wants. For years she’s controlled her power, keeping her secret, never using it on anyone— until the day she had no choice.

Now the government is after her, after her brother, too, because he’ll come into his power before long. The Department of Energy, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security— they all want her, and they’re willing to do anything, hurt anyone, kill if necessary, to make her their weapon.

But DeDe has had enough. They think she’s a weapon? Fine. They’re about to find out how right they are.

Purchases

I picked up four books this month—one new, three used, and two of my favorite books from years past.

Empire of the Vampire – by Jay Kristoff

Goodreads

From holy cup comes holy light;
The faithful hand sets world aright.
And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.


It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.

Abandoned – by W. Michael Gear

Goodreads

Supervisor Kalico Aguila has bet everything on a fragile settlement far south of Port Authority. There, she has carved a farm and mine out of wilderness. But Donovan is closing in. When conditions couldn’t get worse, a murderous peril descends out of Donovan’s sky–one that will leave Kalico bleeding and shattered.

Talina Perez gambles her life and reputation in a bid to atone for ruthlessly murdering a woman’s husband years ago. Ironically, saving Dya Simonov may save them all.

Lieutenant Deb Spiro is losing it, and by killing a little girl’s pet alien, she may have precipitated disaster for all. In the end, the only hope will lie with a “lost” colony, and the alien-infested reflexes possessed by Security Officer Talina Perez.

On Donovan, only human beings are more terrifying than the wildlife.

Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz

Goodreads

Review

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.

The Wolf’s Call – by Anthony Ryan

Goodreads

Review

Vaelin Al Sorna is a living legend, his name known across the Realm. It was his leadership that overthrew empires, his blade that won hard-fought battles – and his sacrifice that defeated an evil more terrifying than anything the world had ever seen. Yet he cast aside his earned glory for a quiet life in the Realm’s northern reaches.

Now whispers have come from across the sea of an army called the Steel Horde, led by a man who believes himself a god. Vaelin has no wish to fight another war, but when he learns that Sherin, the woman he lost long ago, has fallen into the Horde’s grasp, he resolves to confront this powerful new threat.

To this end, Vaelin travels to the realms of the Merchant Kings, a land ruled by honour and intrigue. There, as the drums of war thunder across kingdoms riven by conflict, Vaelin learns a terrible truth: that there are some battles that even he cannot hope to win.

Music

I think I’m going to start trying to do a monthly recap post for music, as I never know what is coming out when, and I spend about as much time looking it up for this post as I do researching/writing everything else. I’ll try to get one for September out by the end of the week. Fingers crossed, eh?

Also, here’s a Ghost BC song from a couple days ago.

Gaming

I honestly did not think I’d like Ghostrunner as much as I did. Figured I’d get sick of it sometime before the end; that dying repeatedly in an attempt to reach perfection wouldn’t appeal. That said, not only did I manage to finish the game—I also 100%ed it. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of the try-die-repeat genre, or if you really, really need some cyberpunk in your life.

Not sure where I’ll be headed next—I’ve been playing some Sniper Elite DLC and trying to decide. I need something rather story-light to play while I’m reading some audiobooks. Any suggestions?

Currently Reading

This Fallen Prey – by Kelley Armstrong

Armed with the knowledge that Book 1 was a gem and Book 2 was a bit of a miss, I was able to roar through to Book 3 in about a week. So far I’m thoroughly enjoying Rockton, and love exploring the Yukon taiga! (I’m reading a lot on the side about the Yukon, and would very much like to visit Whitehorse in the future) Hopefully the series continues to thrill and impress!

The Cloud Prison – by D.B. Jackson

I got a bit distracted by Rockton, but have thoroughly enjoyed my return to the Thieftaker universe in this second novella making up the Loyalist Witch! Should be done with Part #2 here in the next few days—so if you’re putting off a read/reread of the series until I let you know if these novellas are worth it you shouldn’t have to wait much longer:)

Life

Fall is here and with it the promise of cooler weather. The trees don’t really change colors here much (most of them being evergreens), but it rains and snows as the weather sours for the onset of winter. It is harvest season in Montana—and the apples are ready to be picked. Got some of my own just yesterday (courtesy of my buddy’s farm)!

Also got some squash and root vegetables that I can throw in the basement for the winter, hopefully the start of many stews to come over the dark, cold season. Hunting season has started here as well, though I haven’t been out yet. Not a huge fan of hunting, less so of guns—but bow season’s alright, even if I don’t actively look forward to it.

Work has slowed down somewhat too. I’ve started working children’s sports again, and my bosses in adult sports haven’t been happy (they’re different departments here, with different heads) so they’ve pulled me off all my shifts. Guess they never learnt to share. It caught me off-guard, and I’m not sure what it means for my future with them. Also I’m not sure what it means for my reading time over the rest of the year. I’ve been getting through a fair amount lately, but that could change in the next week. Or month. Or not. Surely if I end up doing Nanowrimo my reading and reviewing will slow down as it has in the past. I’ve been getting less advance copies, which SHOULD HYPOTHETICALLY allow me to catch up on some of the excess I missed over the year. I still have a few releases I’m quite excited for in the remainder of 2021, but there aren’t a ton and I should be able to play some catch-up. Seriously, you should see my physical TBR for the winter!

Of course, please let me know if you’re excited for any of my top October picks! Or anything I may’ve missed. Or anything else I should be reading. Or if you just want to drop a line and say HI, I’d love to hear from you!

– Will

September 2021

Ugh August was a train wreck. I only read 4 books, and 3 of my 9 ARCs for the month. Granted, I new it’d be a bad month, at least reading-wise. But it wasn’t a great month otherwise. Smoky, COVIDy, dealing with rude people, and stupid Montana laws.

Music

I like such a range and variety of music that I can never find releases in advance, so instead here are some recent releases I’ve been enjoying. Also I thought I’d lead with the music this month as I’ve a nice selection of six songs and thought maybe you’d like to listen to one or two while perusing the rest of the news. Or not. Not’s fine too;)

Let’s see if this mashup of Smash and Siamese gets cutoff like some of the others have.

The second album in two years from this Swedish band, and… it’s mostly good. Better than the last one, at least. Numb is a five song EP from Danish band Siamese. It’s their first album in two years, and includes five good songs (well, four and the popular yelly one featuring Drew York). Elsewhere, Finnish Folk Metal outfit Korpiklaani have released a song about drinking, Australian celtic punk band the Rumjacks put out a previously bonus-only track off their last album, Hestia. Missourian southern rock group Shaman’s Harvest have a new haunting song which definitely sounds like them, and last but not least we have Adharma with Ultraviolettheir only release to datewhich is actually a cover of a Freya Ridings song.

Glow in the DarkSmash Into Pieces

NumbSiamese

EnnenKorpiklaani

Lost Along the WayThe Rumjacks

VoicesShaman’s Harvest

UltravioletAdharma

New ARC

The Splinter King – by Mike Brooks (9/07)

God-King Chronicles #2

Goodreads

Still reeling from the events of The Black Coast, and the rise of the daemonic warlord, the political machinations, betrayals, new friendships, duels and battles continue to unfold as new characters appear and old return. 

As the quest for the new God-King begins and a deadly coup is planned, the Nardia seems to be a kingdom forever in turmoil.

I loved the first God-King book, so picking up the next one seemed a no-brainer! If you haven’t read it or heard the hype, maybe check out my review HERE and maybe it’ll convince you to go for it.

Iron Widow – by Xiran Jay Zhao (9/21)

Iron Widow #1

Goodreads

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Iron Widow already has a boatload of reviews over on Goodreads, where it’s currently boasting a 4.4 rating. This, combined with Gundams, the Hyron Project, and a dystopian Chinaif anything this makes me more excited to read it.

The Liar of Red Valley – by Walter Goodwater (9/28)

Standalone

Goodreads

Don’t trust the Liar.

Don’t go in the River.

Do not cross the King.

In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But even that isn’t enough to protect Sadie now that she’s unexpectedly become the Liar: the keeper and maker of Red Valley’s many secrets.

In a town like this, friendships are hard-won and bad blood lasts generations, and when not everyone in town is exactly human, it isn’t a safe place to make enemies.

And though the Liar has power—power to remake the world, with just a little blood—what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley?

City of Songs – by Anthony Ryan (9/30)

The Seven Swords #3

Goodreads

ATHERIA—THE FABLED CITY OF SONGS THE SHINING JEWEL OF THE THIRD SEA WHERE THE MASKED EXULTIA CASTE HOLD SWAY AND VIE TO OUTDO EACH OTHER IN THEIR PATRONAGE OF THE ARTS, SOMETIMES WITH DEADLY CONSEQUENCES…

Guyime, wandering, dethroned King of the Northlands, is drawn to the Atheria by his quest for the Seven Swords, the demon cursed blades of legend. But to claim the next sword he must first solve a seemingly impossible murder—a puzzle that, once untangled, will unveil secrets so dark they could bring the City of Songs to utter ruin.

I’ve read a decent amount of books by Anthony Ryan by now, and I’ve almost forgotten the thing that was Queen of Fire. The Seven Swords is a densely-packed (if short) fantasy that’s been thoroughly enjoyable to this point. Early reviews are positive, but we’ll find out shortly if it lives up to the first two!

A Pilgrimage of Swords Review

The Kraken’s Tooth Review

Sisters of Shadow – by Katherine Livesey (9/30)

Sisters of Shadow #1

Goodreads

Alice has lived in the forest on the fringes of Alder Vale ever since her parents abandoned her. Alone, exiled, feared by all. All except Lily.

But something is stirring beyond the mountains, whispers of spectres stalking the moors, women of unfathomable power luring children into a cult that has haunted local lore for a generation.

Then, in the dead of night, Alice receives a letter promising answers to the questions that have always tormented her. And so she meets Grace. The red-cloaked cultist pledged to protect her, a scarred warrior born of storm and sea, the girl who will steal her heart.

I had high hopes for this one, but the early reviews are not good. Like, sub-3 not-good. So I’ve lowered my expectations. I’m still hoping it will overcome these expectations, though.

Purchases

Fevre Dream – by George R.R. Martin

Standalone

Goodreads

When struggling riverboat captain Abner Marsh receives an offer of partnership from a wealthy aristocrat, he suspects something’s amiss. But when he meets the hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York, he is certain. For York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet. Nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York has his own reasons for wanting to traverse the powerful Mississippi. And they are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious his actions may prove.

Marsh meant to turn down York’s offer. It was too full of secrets that spelled danger. But the promise of both gold and a grand new boat that could make history crushed his resolve—coupled with the terrible force of York’s mesmerizing gaze. Not until the maiden voyage of his new sidewheeler Fevre Dream would Marsh realize he had joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare…and mankind’s most impossible dream.

Other ARC

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

Wilderwood #1

Goodreads

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

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

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

I was kindly granted a late review copy of this just earlier this week. Though it’s been a while since it’s been released, I’m still interested to read it. I’ve heard pretty decent/good things thus far!

Currently Reading

Bridge of Souls – by Victoria Schwab

Cassidy Blake Book Three presents the city of New Orleans, one of the most historic places on the planet. So long as one discounts 100% of the Cradle of Civilization, at least. Quite the haunted place, New Orleans is, apparently. And Cassidy aims to confront her demons from Book #2. But to do that, she’ll have to… actually, I’m not sure what. I’m not that far in. I’m sure it’ll prove a decent adventure, though.

Gaming

Since Cyberpunk 2077 is still a bit glitchy and unplayable (for me, at least), I felt like finally going in for a bit of Ghsotrunner. It’s been on my watchlist for a bit despite the fact that it’s one of those games that aims for perfection (or luck) in everything. Luckily, there’s a decently forgiving checkpoint system, and an AMAZING soundtrack. Also a very nice cyberpunk setting and feel. Plus, it’s a bit of a “story-light” kinda game, so I can read audiobooks while playing.

Life

So, August was a bit of a wash, huh? Several of my friends got COVIDincluding about half that were already vaccinated. Which, with the rates skyrocketing again, is deeply worrying. Most of them did quite badly, too. In other news, didn’t get a ton of reading done, many games played, or much else accomplished. Work sucked. The whole month. People were rude. Worse than normal. Maybe it’s our new lawwhere you can’t discriminate against people who aren’t vaccinated or wearing masks. Now that sounds great, but in my experience it mostly just exempts people from giving a fuck.

But, right. Have a lot of reading to catch up on over the rest of the year. Maybe I can find some self-control and not request a ton of books that would otherwise fill that time. I’d like to at least catch up on Shards of Earth, Bloodless, Ardor Benn, Namesake, Once and Future Witches, and The Splinter King. In practice, I might manage… half?

The last week and a half of August, then the beginning of September, I spent in Pennsylvania. Took an impromptu vacation there to visit family, but only managed to see a few of them. It was still nice. Up until my flights were cancelled and I was stuck there for most of another week because of storms and flooding. Keep in mind: it had rained in Montana twice in the last month. So I spent most of my time in the Eastern US just watching it rain. It was a nice breakplus I missed a couple festivals I’d’ve otherwise had to work, which was great. But… I kinda didn’t bring my laptop or schedule any posts, so I was just gone. But, didn’t die. Still alive. Should be able to publish something in the next month or so at least.

How was your August? How ready are you for the fall?

Islanders (2019) – Indie Lagoon

Islanders

Grizzly Games2019

10 hours / 54% Achievement Progress

TwitterPublisher WebsiteSteam

City Builder • Strategy • Indie • Chill • Exploration • Atmospheric

$4.99

Grizzly Games is a Berlin-based, indie publisher. They have two games to their name thus far, Superflight (released in 2017)—an open world, casual flight sim—and Islanders, a city-builder released two years later.

At the time I’m writing this, Islanders commands a 95% positive rating on Steam, and I can see why. This minimalist city-builder may not be on par with grand strategy games like Civilization, Humankind or Crusader Kings, but its unique, point-based construction system and chill, island hopping gameplay make it a must for casual fans of the genre.

Islanders is an indie city-builder that does things a little differently. Instead of resources and technology and population, everything revolves around points. When you begin a new game, Islanders will ask you to choose between one of two starter packs—usually either Farming or Lumber. These two packs will either revolve around Farming or Lumber, amazingly. But unlike something like Civ, they won’t be used to collect resources used to build and unlock additional buildings. See, you only get a set number of buildings. Thus you must strategically place these buildings in order to maximize the number of points you receive. For example, a Lumberjack has a base point total of zero, but receives an additional one point for every tree, four points for each statue and five points for every sawmill in its radius. However, it also loses six points for every additional Lumberjack nearby. So let’s say you put it near 20 trees and one sawmill, thereby earning 25 points. These points are added to your total.

For each milestone in points you reach, you’ll unlock another pack, containing more unique buildings—and even some that you might’ve seen before. While you’ll get Lumber, Farming, Brewing, Seaweed, and City packs early on, later your choices will diversify somewhat. The thing is that no matter how many points you earn, your next milestone will only unlock the choice of a maximum of two packs. It’s a gamble (especially early on) that you’ll be able to earn enough points through placing these buildings to unlock another. If you fail to earn enough points, it’s game over, and Islanders will restart. You won’t lose much (at least at first), but later on there’s more to play for and expect things to get much more strategic.

My first game ended in five minutes.

I placed the sawmill and lumberjack away from one another and not near enough trees and immediately saw the game over screen. Pressed continue and I was right back to another small, picturesque isle in an infinite sea.

My second game lasted about about an hour.

The thing is that while it looks quite simple, Islanders also holds a challenge, a complexity that actually does require some strategy to navigate. You can make one move at a time, place one building at a time—and make certain you’re happy with it. You’ll have the opportunity to undo your move immediately upon making or until you place another building. After that it’s permanent. You cannot erase or replace any buildings further that one turn back. So you better make sure you love its placement, or else that house is staying on that tiny isle for good.

On the lefthand side of the screen, you have your point total. It tracks your overall progress, as well as your progress towards your next milestone pack unlock. On the righthand side, there’s your progress toward the next island. Once this bar is filled, you have unlocked a new island that you can journey to whenever you wish. You could stay a while and continue building on your existing isle, or abandon it straightaway for the new one. Just know that once you leave for a new island, there’s no coming back.

It’s important to note that should you stay for a while and at some point fail to earn enough points towards the next milestone, your game won’t end. You’ll just have no choice but to continue on to the next island. So the game won’t end, but your time on any given island will eventually run out.

I reached this point in my third game.

I spent an hour or so pushing through the first four islands, but immediately fell in love with Island #5. It was a larger isle, full of plateaus and beaches and boulders and forests. There were overgrown ruins of a bridge that I found scenic and mysterious. And it was predominately green. A lush, lovely green. I love green.

After maybe 30-45 minutes, I’d unlocked the next island. But I was reluctant to leave #5.

In the end I built 5 cities on this fifth island. Additionally, I constructed four farming complexes, several mines and quarries, and a random assortment of huts, gardens, and other amusements. That topmost (and tallest) plateau (or tepui, if you will), I left mostly untouched, only tucking a few lumberjacks in. I tried and retried buildings, careful to conserve space, maintain the tranquil aesthetic, and maximize my points.

I spent nearly 5 hours on this island.

It was genuinely upsetting when I realized that I was backed into a corner and couldn’t earn enough points to complete the next milestone. I took screenshots of all my cities, all my favorite bits of the island and—placing my final garden—I was forced to move on to Island #6. I was crushed. I was disappointed. I was surprised. How could a chill, relaxing game that I picked up to do a bit have affected me so much? It was an interesting moment. I wasn’t sure whether to feel vindicated in my purchase or disappointed in my strategy that I’d apparently failed at.

Then I got my first look at Island #6.

And—OOOoooOOOoooo…

I haven’t yet started #6, so right now it’s just a mass of potential. It is visually as appealing as any of the other islands, as well as the largest region yet (I wonder if they’ll continue to grow the farther you go in the game?) (Also, I hope they’ll be archipelagos to build across at some point). The music is still as chill as ever. I really wanted to dive in.

But I need to unwind after Island #5. And I’ve been playing it for much of the last five hours (while also watching Taskmaster on Youtube). Also, it’s 5am. I should prooobably go to sleep first.

TL;DR

Islanders is a relaxing, beautiful game. But there’s also some strategy to it—far more than I expected. The soft, semi-pixelated graphics have a definite appeal. The soothing, tranquil music doesn’t stress you out and encourages you to take the game at your own pace. Combined with gorgeous colors and a lovely aesthetic, it’s a pretty and chill game, even if you lose right away. Even when you lose later on down the line it’s hard to get too upset, because your next island is just a click away.

You won’t fight any battles. It’s your island to colonize alone, as you will, with no opponent to compete for space. There’s no technology to worry about, nor resources, no population. You unlock buildings with points, and can’t always predict how your choices will influence what unlocks later.

There’s no saving, which is somewhat disappointing, but I can understand why it’s been left out. Your current game is preserved should you leave it in progress, and your new one won’t be too far from the one before to require a save mechanic. That’s not to say there’s no replayability, however, as the ever-changing, procedurally generated islands ensure that each game will be new and interesting, if not vastly different.

Since Islanders is a more casual, less intensive city-builder, it’s not going to replace something on the scale of Civ or Humankind. Nor will it prove a strategy game on par with Crusader Kings or Hearts of Iron. There’re no epic battles, wars; no race to explore, advance; no one to conquer or dominate; no population to control, manage, appease, or keep alive. But it’s still good fun, and I’d certainly recommend it.

Since it’s not a massive game, it won’t tax your computer. It runs on my old Mac just fine, and the thing is 10 years old. I think the install size was 100 mb or something. But if you’re concerned about that, I think Islanders also just released for console too.

All in all, I’ve enjoyed Islanders far more than I’d’ve ever expected. Completely worth the fiver in my opinion—but then I got it on sale for $2.50. Definitely worth that.

August 2021

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

ARC

The Godstone – by Violette Malan (8/03)

Untitled Series #1 / Standalone

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Final Architects #1

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Faroe Islands Mystery #1

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Ink & Sigil #2

Goodreads

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

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

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

Bloodless – by Preston & Child (8/17)

Agent Pendergast #20

Goodreads

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

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

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

The Pariah – by Anthony Ryan (8/24)

Covenant of Steel #1

Goodreads

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

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

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

Standalone

Goodreads

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

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

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

Revelation Space Universe

Goodreads

Miguel de Ruyter is a man with a past.

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

Only something goes wrong.

There’s a lone survivor.

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

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

Other Releases

Nolyn – by Michael J. Sullivan (8/03)

Rise and Fall #1

Goodreads

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

Music

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

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

Gaming

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

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

Currently Reading

The Godstone – by Violette Malan

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

A Gathering of Ravens – by Scott Oden

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

Life

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

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

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

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

July 2021

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

ARC

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

Follet Valley Mysteries #1

GoodreadsReview

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

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

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

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

Song of the Shattered Sands #6

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

Other Releases

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

Ashes of the Unhewn Throne #1

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

Monk & Robot #1

Goodreads

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

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

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

Purchases

Lord of Ashes – by Richard Ford

Steelhaven Book #3

Goodreads

FIGHT TO THE DEATH…

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

…OR BOW TO THE ENEMY

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

Hard Reboot – by Django Wexler

Goodreads

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

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

Music

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

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

fever – Against the Current (7/23)

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

Gaming

Disco Elysium

Developed by ZA/UM

10-15 hours in / 8% Trophy Completion

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

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

Currently Reading

A Desert Torn Asunder – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

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

Outpost – by W. Michael Gear

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

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

Life

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

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

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

June 2021

ARCs

Rabbits – by Terry Miles (6/08)

Goodreads

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

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

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

The Coward – by Stephen Aryan (6/08)

Goodreads

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

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

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

The Jasmine Throne – Tasha Suri (6/08)

Goodreads

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

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

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

Artifact Space – by Miles Cameron (6/24)

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Other Releases

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

Broken Web – by Lori M. Lee (6/15)

Goodreads

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

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

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

Other ARCs

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

The old gods are waking.

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

Purchases

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

The Corroded Man – by Adam Christopher

Goodreads

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

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

Persepolis Rising – by James S.A. Corey

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

Smoke and Ashes – by Abir Mukherjee

Goodreads

India, 1921.

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

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

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

Gates of the Dead – by James A. Moore

Goodreads

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

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

Music

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

Gaming

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

Anyone have any recommendations for anything new to play?

Life

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

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

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