Crank Palace – by James Dashner (Review)

The Maze Runner #3.5

Dystopian, YA, Novella

Riverdale Avenue Books; November 23, 2020

109 pages (ebook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

1 / 5 ✪

May contain minor spoilers for the Maze Runner series.

I was kindly furnished an advance copy in return for a fair and honest review (I thought). Many thanks to Riverdale Books and NetGalley, through which they provided me an ARC! All opinions are my own.

For every outstanding, glowing, 5-star review, there will be a dissenting opinion. These two will help a reader on the fence decide if a book is ultimately right for them. So you see, I’m providing an important service.

I picked this up because I wasn’t fully on board with the Flare, and everything that happened in the original trilogy. I wanted the closure, that the final book failed to provide. I was hoping that this would help fill in some gaps, help us understand the Flare, and provide some insight into Newt’s motivations behind his departure and his friends’ journey without him. If by chance you picked this up for the same reasons, you’re out of luck.

Crank Palace is the story of Newt, a six-year old who has lost his friends, but is still stuck in the same imaginary world of a disease that not only drives people insane, but also kills them. Or, he’s a teenager with the emotional range of a six-year old. Or the author just didn’t put enough effort into his story.

I’ve never been a fan of Dashner’s writing style, something I complained about throughout the original series, but came in hoping that it was something that he’d honed with time and practice.

Newt wished the Flare was a person so he could kick its arse.

Well, that was a mistake.

There is actually a journey in Crank Palace, and some decisions that don’t entirely contradict all the others, unfortunately these are few and far between. While Newt’s attitude towards his friends from the Maze remain constant, nothing else shows nearly the same consistency. Of all the characters in this, Newt is the only one that shows even a hint of growth, and it is counteracted at almost every turn by the rest of the stupid s*** he does.

The other main character, Keisha, is just a walking contradiction. In one scene she shoots someone in a desperate attempt to defend her only child, Dante. Immediately afterwards she attempts to defend Newt as well, someone who she literally just met, and was never suspicious of for a second. Then she worries over staying with him since he has the Flare, and wonders if her kid will be safe. Right after that she leaves Dante with Newt while she heads off on her own.

The whole story is based on the letter from the series which sees Newt abandon his friends so that they don’t have to watch him slowly descend into madness, so that they can focus on their mission and cure the Flare. But his range of emotions don’t ever transcend this one moment, and neither does his plan. It’s repeated over and over that he’s leaving them so that they can focus without him acting as a burden, otherwise he may distract them. This is a sentiment I can understand. Literally the only one from him over the entirety of the tale.

The man’s name has finally been revealed as Terry—the most unlikely name Newt could imagine.

He will occasionally remember things from his previous life, but they are few and far between, and won’t mention them until after he’s already exhibited some knowledge he shouldn’t have, only to say “oh yeah, I just remembered it”. It’s an entirely too convenient way of telling the story, and one that mostly just annoyed me. At one point a cell phone becomes central to the plot, when our heroes receive a message from someone in their past they thought was dead. But not only does no one have cell phones anymore, but the cell towers shouldn’t even work. Not to mention that the phone is stolen, so there’s no possible way they could have received a message from anyone they knew. But it becomes a huge plot device, which basically defines the story.

This 100 page novella took me over a week to get through, despite its length. More than once I had to go back to see what the characters were talking about, only to find no mention of it. It’s been a little since I finished the series, but reviewed the specifics before I began this novella. I had originally planned to read it much earlier, but was immediately put off by a note I received from the publisher when it kindly granted me a copy.


Your request has been approved on the basis that you have a strong interest in the book’s subject matter and that you review books.  If you request a book that turns out not to based on your interests or the genres you read, and find that it is not to your liking, or you chose not to finish reading the book (DNF), the author would appreciate it if you did not review it.

Asking me not to review it because I DNFed it is one thing, but asking me not to if I didn’t like it sounds a lot like the publisher/author is looking for “only positive feedback”. Which is ridiculous. After all, it granted me a review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review—unless I didn’t like it, in which case they would appreciate if I kept my mouth shut.

So, I took a year to calm down (which I did, until I read it again). Sadly, it doesn’t help that the book is nonsense.

Crank Palace is currently selling for $7 in the US and 5£ in the UK. It somehow has a rating of over four stars on Goodreads. I would suggest that you go check out some other reviews of it, unless you weren’t a fan of the original series. In which case maybe just forget it.

Ketchup Month 2021

Hey it’s December! Wow… this year wasn’t great. But it was (might’ve been) (maaaybe) better than 2020, so we’re trending in the right direction (maybe). Anyway, I meant to do this last year but kinda ran out of time (to write a post and/or read books). Ketchup Month is all about reading those books that you MEANT to get to throughout the year, but ultimately did not.

But first we have a few ARCs for December, Black Friday purchases, and other nonsense. I was feeling pretty screwed coming into this month when I realized that I’d somehow been granted 5 ARCs for December, all releasing in the same week (and 4 on the same day). I mean, I can’t really complain about review copies, but it really bothers me when I fail to read most of them on time. Luckily I ended up racing through the first pair, so I might just have half of them reviewed by the time the 9th rolls around!

ARCs

Risen – by Benedict Jacka (12/07)

Alex has been through a lot, going from exile to one of the most powerful mages in Britain. But as the end draws near, he can feel his time running out. And there’s still so much to do first… (yeah, I’m being vague, so sue me—it’s book #12, how am I supposed to hype it?)

Discordia – by Kristyn Merbeth (12/07)

The Kaisers have been through a lot: war, genocide, love, war again, but now that they’re back in space where they belong, they’ll have to face a chilling new prospect. What if this isn’t where they belong? Scorpia knows what she wants, but she’s recently come to terms with the realization that her family has different dreams. But will she ignore those ambitions to further her own, and risk losing them forever?

Firesky – by Mark de Jager (12/07)

Relentless. Unstoppable. Dragon.

While not all of his memories have reawakened, Stratus the Dead Wind now knows his name, and his true nature. Also, he’s remembered who took his beloved, destroyed his life, and hunted him tot eh ends of the earth.

And he will have his vengeance. In this life or the next.

Absynthe – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (I mean, Brendan P. Bellecourt) (12/07)

Reminds me a bit of Wolfenstein, only with magic, World War I, and no Nazis.

When Liam survives a brutal assassination that can only be caused by the Uprising, it awakens painful memories from his past; delusions of magical power. But Grace, who helped rescue him from the attack, instead points her finger at their current president, who’s attempting to remove all missteps in his past. But of course Liam can trust no one, not even Grace, not even his powers.

Brendan P. Bellecourt is Beaulieu’s penname for this bit of alt-history scifi/fantasy whatever you’d call it.

(Nowhere to) Hide – by Nell Pattison (12/09)

Seven “friends” enjoy a quite weekend at a bird sanctuary somewhere in Britain. Only thing is, one of them will die this weekend, at another’s hand. Prepare to guess who, guess again, and then keep on guessing until it’s all said and done. A non-stop, tense mystery of bad choices, bad people, and a susurrus of birds.

TBR

EBOOK

Namesake – by Adrienne Young (6/22)

Fable’s new beginning has taken a step backwards. The man she loves, the affection of her father, a ship of her own, the freedom to make her own mistakes and choices—all forgotten in the blink of an eye. All because some secrets are worth spilling, and others are worth dying for. Her mother had some of each—and now Fable needs to finally learn them.

Bloodless – by Preston & Child (8/17)

Somewhere between a masterpiece and a mess, the newest Pendergast novel involves an unspeakable evil, a mutilated corpse, an unsolved hijacking, and the infamous D.B. Cooper. I’ve heard both good and bad things about this one, but with the spinoffs failing to appropriately wow me, it’s time to find out who’s right.

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

Not only did I not get to this in August, I didn’t get to it during Scifi Month either. And why? Well, though I’ve heard it’s better than some of the recent full-length Tchaikovsky wrecks, part of me keeps revisiting Cage of Souls from earlier this year. But I digress… something about the destruction of Earth, a desperate war, enhanced humans, and the alien Architects. A secret worth killing for might be worth dying for as well.

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

The fallout from the Black Coast still haunts the continent. A demon-possessed warlord, a battle for an heir to an empire. A recently promoted vassal grappling with the steps he took to ascend, while his new wife struggles with her own recent choices. New allies, new enemies—most of the old of each lie dead. Except the one, that is.

PHYSICAL

Lord of Ashes – by Richard Ford

Book #3 of Steelhaven starts with a bang. The war we’ve spent the entire trilogy preparing for is on, and it’s up to our protagonists to make it out alive. Just as importantly, Richard (R.S.) Ford has a new series coming out in January, and I’d really quite like to finish this first one before I read the new one.

Empire of the Vampire – by Jay Kristoff

This is an absolute brick of a book—but one I 100% want to read. I’ve heard all good things. I just ran out of time for vampires in September, so I had to schedule it here.

Abandoned – by W. Michael Gear

As Mogsy (over on the Bibliosanctum) keeps posting about Donovan Book #5 even though she knows I’m only on #2, I figure I should probably catch up. This Donovan adventure picks up where the last left off, so prepare for more aliens, death from above, and potentially the end of all things.

The Sword Falls – by A.J. Smith

The second in the Form & Void, the Sword Falls is the sequel to the Glass Breaks, which I read earlier this year. While the protagonists are generally stubborn, idiotic, and rude, there is a war on that threatens to wipe humanity from the continent, so it might be acceptable. Well, more acceptable.

AUDIO

These Silent Woods – by Kimi Cunningham Grant

Cooper and his daughter Finch live in a remote stretch of the Appalachian wilderness, hiding from the world for the last decade. But when their only link to the outside world disappears, Finch starts rebelling against her forced isolation, and she’ll discover just why they’ve been in hiding.

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind – by Jackson Ford

To be honest, Teagan Frost kinda reminds me of Jessie from Control, so… Plus I’ve heard this is a nice, fast read and has generally good reviews. I quite enjoyed the sample of it and picked it up with my monthly credit. So if you want to tell me how sh*t it is, now’s the time!

Salvation – by Peter F. Hamilton

Another failed Scifi Month read, I’ve pretty much failed to finish this all year. A collection of vaguely related tales regarding the Saints of Salvation, a group that will become the saviors of… some such thing. While I’ve heard good things about the rest of the series, this first one is a bit of a slog.

Thus begins Ketchup Month.

So what do you bet that I fail to read all these books? Quite the ambitious goal, you might be thinking—but I’m hardly that insane. I’m not going to finish all these. If I’m lucky, I might be able to manage one or two from each category (one if I’m honest, two if I’m quite lucky). The only exception being the ARCs which I’m hopeful to get through maybe 3-4. The point is, since I’m a bit of a mood reader, I need a long list of potentials lined up. These aren’t even all of them. I left of Ardor Benn, Rhythm of War, and a reread of the Barrow (partly because of space, partly because I might have something up my sleeve for next month/year). What you can expect from this month are another Christmas Book Buying Guide (I thoroughly enjoyed doing one last year), various lists about books of the year, and a Black Friday book haul that I didn’t get around to on this one. I already have four reviews scheduled for this month (which is about double what I had last year), and a good bit of reading I’ve managed to get done for next month so far in November.

Do be sure to let me know what you think about this year’s Ketchup choices, and maybe suggest some rereads you might have in store down the line. Otherwise settle in, because we have one last month to burn 2021 down, and may as well use it!

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows – by John August (Updated Review)

Hey, if you read my original review of Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows way back in 2020—well, welcome to Round #2! At the time I remember saying that while the book wasn’t great, I’d address its problems later, depending on what was done to resolve them in the following entry.

Well, it’s been over a year and a half since the latest Arlo Finch book came out, and it appears that no fourth book is following. Needless to say that I’m disappointed. So it’s time to revisit this series and wrap up our thoughts on it, while saying a few choice words about just how it ended.

There are some spoilers following, so if you’d like to avoid those, just skip to the TL;DR.

Now, I’m not going to get into the original meat of it, so if you need a refresher, you can find it in the original review HERE (I’ll tack on this update to the end, so if you just wanted to read the whole thing there that’s totally an option) (alternatively, if you want to just skip to the TL;DR because this is Middle Grade or it doesn’t concern you, well yeah, you could do that too, I guess).

While originally planned and purchased as a trilogy, the Arlo Finch series had the potential to provide so much more mystery and adventure than three books could give them. As such, while the first and second titles in the series were highly entertaining, the third book—Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows—fell flat. Partly because it came at a crossroads for the series and in Arlo’s character arc; partly because it wrapped up the series; partly since the book tried to wrap up so many threads, while ultimately accomplishing very little. The problems I had in my original review notwithstanding, the Kingdom of Shadows was a conclusion wrought with issues—from what it set out to accomplish in the first place, to what story it managed to tell at the end.

Let me just say that while I didn’t see this coming, I really should have. But I didn’t know going into it that the Kingdom of Shadows was planned as the last book in a trilogy. And so the ending (when it just up and ended) made very little sense to me. Looking back on it, and knowing that it was the planned conclusion… it makes even less sense.

The conclusion itself is open-ended, with the final scene acting as both a finale and a beginning of sorts. As the precursor to a new book, this would’ve proved effective. As a final well, finale, it does the opposite. Instead of a cliffhanger ending to be resolved in the next installment, the Kingdom of Shadows uses a Sopranos-style moment—had the show ended a half-hour sooner. Or for the people that don’t know what this means: it ended in the middle of a scene, with quite little (to nothing) being actually resolved. Yes, the antagonist from the second book has been defeated. Yes, Arlo’s dad is home. Yes… actually no, that’s pretty much it.

So, basically, we’re just expected to believe that these two things will fix all the world’s problems. Arlo’s dad is just not in trouble anymore—because that makes perfect sense. The Eldrich just magicked all those problems away for… what reason, exactly? Even if it had made any sense for them to have that power, their rationale to do so didn’t make any more sense. Even less, actually. And with the tag-line of the book coming down to:

Arlo must make an impossible choice: save his friends and family, or save the Long Woods.

I mean, he doesn’t even manage either of these things. The Long Woods is still doomed. He didn’t save his friends or family in any reasonable way—the book was just like “well, it’s about that time, so I guessed our hero must’ve saved the day” and wrapt up without anything really being finished. This book makes about as much sense as my last three November novels have, and I ended each one with: “and then they all died”, regardless of what was happening. Don’t even get me started on the dragon.

The dragon that doesn’t really do anything, but then gets freed at the end and… the world is totally fixed. Because. Because magic fixes all problems, so we don’t even have to get into all the how’s and why’s or explain anything in detail. It just works. Because magic.

Have you ever sat down with your kid and told them “I know that you tried your best and didn’t succeed but magic magic magic you win and everything is perfect!”

…did that work? Honestly asking.

Not only am I disappointed by the lack of coherence, but as I reread it now, I notice more and more how rushed this conclusion feels. Not only the conclusion—the entire book. The premise itself doesn’t even really work. The enemy we just defeated in the previous book magically escapes and undoes everything in the blink of an eye? It’s not like you can just rebuild a death star by snapping your fingers. It’s like the author was brainstorming and only came up with “I know I just concluded this storyline in the last book but imagine this—maybe all that stuff didn’t happen” and just went from there. It’s just all… lazy.

TL;DR

If you skipped this very healthy, very understandable rant—you don’t know what you’re missing. Every now and then, we as readers should reflect on our biggest disappointments and vent a little, as it’s the only resolution we’ll ever get. I don’t regret any of the complaints above, as they were all perfectly reasonable requests despite the book only being intended for middle-graders. I work with elementary school children all the time and if you think that your explanation of “and everything was magically fixed because magic” will still fly when they’re that age, you’re probably not ready to be a parent. Not only was the conclusion sans resolution, the entire book itself felt rushed, and the premise completely undid half the stuff the last book worked so hard to accomplish in the blink of an eye. I don’t exactly regret rating this at a 3/5, but had I known it was the planned conclusion—as opposed to the de facto one—I would’ve roasted it over the coals earlier and saved myself some time.

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows – by John August
• Original Rating – 3 /5 ✪
• Updated Rating – 1.8 /5

March 2021

Hey, it’s my favorite month of the year! Should be pretty obvious as to why;) A majority of the new releases I was excited for come out in the first couple weeks of the month, leaving the remainder of March for an advance start on April and other catch-up reads. But as usual my plans aren’t always my best ideas so… we’ll see.

ARCs

One Day All This Will Be Yours – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (3 • 02)

Goodreads

Welcome to the end of time. It’s a perfect day.

Nobody remembers how the Causality War started. Really, there’s no-one to remember, and nothing for them to remember if there were; that’s sort of the point. We were time warriors, and we broke time.

I was the one who ended it. Ended the fighting, tidied up the damage as much as I could.

Then I came here, to the end of it all, and gave myself a mission: to never let it happen again.

Phoenix Flame – by Sara Holland (3 • 02)

Goodreads

Maddie thought her problems were over. She saved the Inn at Havenfall—a sanctuary between magical worlds—from the evil Silver Prince. Her uncle the Innkeeper is recovering from a mysterious spell that left him not quite human. And there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her more-than-friend Brekken.


But there’s more work to be done to protect the Inn—Maddie must put an end to the black-market trading of magical objects and open the Inn’s doors to the once feared land of shapeshifters.

As she tries to accomplish both seemingly impossible tasks, Maddie uncovers secrets that could change everything. What if saving everyone means destroying the only home she’s known?

The Second Bell – by Gabriela Houston (3 • 09)

Goodreads

In an isolated mountain community, sometimes a child is born with two hearts. This child is called a striga and is considered a demon who must be abandoned on the edge of the forest. The child’s mother must then decide to leave with her infant, or stay and try to forget.

Nineteen year-old striga, Salka, and her mother, Miriat, made the choice to leave and live a life of deprivation and squalor in an isolated village. The striga tribe share the human belief that to follow the impulses of their other hearts is dangerous, inviting unspoken horrors and bringing ruin onto them all.

Salka, a headstrong and independent young woman, finds herself in a life threatening situation that forces her to explore the depths of her true nature and test the bonds between mother and child…

Somehow I lost my previous ebook of the Second Bell. I know I had it, but it’s gone now. Somehow. Anyway, if I manage to chase down another copy, hopefully I’ll be able to get a review of it out on time, but we’ll see. As for the other two—they’ve already been read and enjoyed, so you can expect reviews of them in the next few days.

Other Releases

Bridge of Souls – by Victoria Schwab (3 • 02)

Goodreads

Where there are ghosts, Cassidy Blake follows … unless it’s the other way around?

Cass thinks she might have this ghost-hunting thing down. After all, she and her ghost best friend, Jacob, have survived two haunted cities while travelling for her parents’ TV show.

But nothing can prepare Cass for New Orleans, which wears all of its hauntings on its sleeve. In a city of ghost tours and tombs, raucous music and all kinds of magic, Cass could get lost in all the colourful, grisly local legends. And the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.

Cass takes on her most dangerous challenge yet…

The Sword Falls – by A.J. Smith (3 • 04)

Goodreads

A man of the Dawn Claw will be the Always King. It will ever be so. They will always rule . . . but they will not always lead. Prince Oliver Dawn Claw, heir to the Kingdom of the Four Claws, is thrust into a world he doesn’t understand as he waits for his father to die. Away from home, with few allies, and too many enemies, he faces a new and otherworldly threat to the Eastron from across the sea. Alliances break and masks fall, as the Dark Brethren reveal their true master. Meanwhile, Adeline Brand, called the Alpha Wolf, refuses to wait, and becomes the edge of the sword that swings back at the Dreaming God. Assembling allies and crushing resistance, she enters a fight she doesn’t know if she can win, as the sea begins to rise.

Namesake – by Adrienne Young (3 • 16)

Goodreads

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

I doubt I’ll get to all these three this month, but I might get to one or two. And while the Sword Falls ebook comes out this March, its physical release isn’t for another couple months—so you shouldn’t expect a review before then. If I get a copy, of course.

Music

Hestia – The Rumjacks (3 • 12)

Hestia is the only new album I could find by a band I recognized in March. In April there are a bunch, but March… just the Australian celtic punk group, advertising their new lead singer, Mike Rivkees. Their old singer (McLaughlin) wasn’t bad, but his lyrics weren’t super… creative. He was a big fan of repetition. Also—apparently—domestic violence and assault, which finally got him removed from the band in 2020. So, I guess he was kinda bad.

Additionally, I’ve found out that a few more bands I’ve enjoyed have broken up, mostly back in 2020. Most notably both 7 Mazes and Five Crumbs (both of Germany), Delain of course, In Waves, and more.

Currently Reading

Cage of Souls – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, surviving on the debris of its long-dead progenitors, Shadrapar is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new, is Stefan Advani, rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will treat with monsters, madman, mutants. The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

Shorefall – by Robert Jackson Bennett

Having narrowly saved the metropolis of Tevanne from destruction, Sancia Grado and her allies have turned to their next task: sowing the seeds of a full-on magical-industrial revolution. If they succeed, the secrets behind scriving—the art of imbuing everyday objects with sentience—will be accessible to all of Tevanne’s citizens, much to the displeasure of the robber-barons who’ve hoarded this knowledge for themselves.  
 
But one of Sancia’s enemies has embarked on a desperate gambit, an attempt to resurrect a figure straight out of legend—an immortal being known as a heirophant. Long ago, the heirophant was an ordinary man, but he’s used scriving to transform himself into something closer to a god. Once awakened, he’ll stop at nothing to remake the world in his horrifying image.
 
And if Sancia can’t stop this ancient power from returning? Well, the only way to fight a god…is with another god.

The Queen’s Road – by R.S. Belcher

Ramon “Ray” Cosa’s life is not what he expected it to be. Living in a small Texas town ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, Ray has suffered many losses in his young life, and he has little hope left that anything will ever change or get better.

That is, until the vintage Ford Galaxie and its strange, dying owner enters Ray’s life. Given a jeweled ring he cannot remove and a desperate mission, Ray is plunged into a universe of secrets, wonders, and terrors he never dreamed exists.

Now, he travels the Queen’s Road – a hyper-space highway that connects all the planets and galaxies in creation – in search of one man, one of the Queen of the Universe’s Rangers. That journey will put Ray on the front lines of an eons-old cosmic war between the primal forces of order and chaos.

And probably make him late for his next shift at the Chug-n-Lug.

Still working through Cage of Souls, which is a bit denser than I’d originally thought. Good, but wordy. And I have had to take some time off to make it through a few ARCs first. Just started Shorefall and the Queen’s Road, but so far so good (the Queen’s Road especially is very immersive)!

Currently Playing

Contains spoilers for Hitman & Hitman 2

Hitman 3

IO Interactive • 2021

22% Completion

Hitman 2

IO Interactive • 2018

61% Completion

Hitman 3 serves (as far as I know) as the completion of the Hitman trilogy, which tells of the origins of 47 through stories and glimpses, all found while helping his childhood friend, Lucas Grey, take down the shadow organization known as “Providence”. While Hitman 1 saw 47 enter the ICA, soon he and his handler, Diana, became very aware of the suspicious assassinations he was being tasked with completing. It first introduces “Providence”, but as the agency fighting the corruption in the ICA itself. The second game introduces Mr. Grey as its surprise twist, and sees 47 turn on “Providence” in recompense for what the cabal did to him as a boy. The third game features more of the same in the way of surprise twists, as well as the same great gameplay that focuses on stealth, discovery, exploration, and innovation. Think about your assignment, plan out your route, or just wing it. Explore and you can find unlockables, easter eggs, lore, and new and interesting ways to accomplish your tasks. Rewards are greater if they limit collateral damage and focus on stealth. If you haven’t played these games before, I’d definitely recommend them. And if you decide to get 3, you can purchase DLC to play all the missions of 1 & 2 at the same time.

While I’m currently working through the story of 3, I’ve also gone back and replayed 2, especially the DLC locations of the Bank and Haven Island which I didn’t dive too deeply into before.

Life

If you missed it, Michael J. Sullivan recently wrapped up a Kickstarter for his latest book, Nolyn, which follows the child of Nyphron and Persephone as his legend unveils. If you missed it but want in on the action, you can still back it HERE. I was thinking about posting something to alert y’all to it, but tbh I almost missed it myself, so that didn’t happen. If you haven’t read any of his other books—it’s cool. The great thing about his novels is that you can begin wherever. Whenever you want. If you haven’t seen the cover, you’re in for a real treat: the thing is AMAZING. In fact, the entire Nolyn trilogy is beautiful. As, I’m sure, the text itself will be.

Hmmmmm…

Haven’t got much else, if I’m honest. I’ve mostly been reading, watching sports, reading WHILE watching sports, and going to work. I’ve been getting into a good routine.

I hate routines.

I’m going to have to change things up.

Also, hopefully at some point it’ll stop snowing and actually get above freezing. March (late March) usually marks the waning of winter, and April the beginning of spring. So, maybe some freezing rain, or some other hobby or something? Any ideas?

I’m sorry if I haven’t gotten around to replying to your comments or posts this week. I’ve been busy, not sleeping well, and it’s kinda taking a toll on me. I’ll try my best to catch up this weekend, but forgive me if I’m a little behind, eh? I’ll catch up soon enough, hopefully!

Hope everyone’s doing well this year! Better than last year, at least. Hopefully it continues well enough, otherwise—only 10 more months til 2022!

Delain: End of an Era

Delain has been one of my favorite bands since I discovered them back in 2008. They inhabited the interesting genre known as symphonic metal, which combines the raw sound of metal with classically gothic vocals. Formed back in 2002 when Martjin Westerholt left Within Temptation, Delain started as a solo project where Westerholt collaborated with different musicians to produce his demo. Then in 2005, he met Charlotte Wessels, and the pair became the framework for Delain. Sixteen years, six full-length, and two EP albums later and Delain is once again becoming a solo project, as everyone but Westerholt has departed the band to pursue other avenues. It’s incredibly disappointing, but I know people have to live their lives how they see fit. I just can’t help but feeling that 2020 hath claimed another victim. While fans have been repeatedly reassured that everyone from Delain will remain in the music industry in some form, I can’t help but compare this to the last great disappointment in symphonic metal when Manda Ophuis left Nemesea in 2016 (granted, she left to pursue her passion of working with special needs children, so it’s kinda hard to fault that).

Hunter’s Moon is also probably my favorite piece of album artwork, though I can’t tell you exactly why.

For the following six days, I’m going to be posting a brief on each of their six albums, along with my favorite song (or two) off them. So if you don’t enjoy this first post, maybe just skip the next six, eh? I won’t be offended—promise.

Hunter’s Moon was an EP (extended play) released in 2018. It featured four brand new, unreleased songs, along with ten additional live performances of existing songs. The following is one of my favorite tracks from the album. Later, there’s Invidia, off the extremely popular April Rain album.

February 2021

Well, we’ve made it to February! Only 11 more months til 2022! Not too many ARCs to read this month. I’ve actually used this as an opportunity to get a jump on March, but there are a couple of exciting releases this month that I’d also like to get to as well!

ARCs

The Galaxy and the Ground Within – by Becky Chambers (2 • 16 UK)

Goodreads

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

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

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

The Black Coast – by Mike Brooks (2 • 16 UK / 2 • 18 US)

Goodreads

When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them, for they know who is coming: for generations, Black Keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Iwernia. Saddling their war dragons, the Naridans rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own homeland by the rise of a daemonic despot who prophesies the end of the world, they have come in search of a new home. Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the cross-fire of the coming war for the world – if only its new mismatched society can survive.

I may’ve confused the dates on those, but UK and US dates often confound me, as I get a decent amount of books from each and… I don’t know. Obviously I need to read Black Coast, as I’ve read the whole of Brooks’ science fiction (which are pretty good). Becky Chambers book I read early (and I did like it, but), and there’ll be a review of it up in the next week or two.

Other Releases

A History of What Comes Next – by Sylvain Neuvel (2 • 02)

Goodreads

Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Sylvain Neuvel weaves a scfi thriller reminiscent of Blake Crouch and Andy Weir, blending a fast moving, darkly satirical look at 1940s rocketry with an exploration of the amorality of progress and the nature of violence in A History of What Comes Next.

Always run, never fight.
Preserve the knowledge.
Survive at all costs.
Take them to the stars.

Over 99 identical generations, Mia’s family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race.

But Mia’s family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes.

A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the men who are determined to stop them…

Voidbreaker – by David Dalglish (2 • 11)

Goodreads

Monsters have retaken the capital city of Londheim and claimed it for themselves. Humanity, fearful of being pushed out for good, has reacted with violence and destruction, and peace between the two races seems all but impossible. Devin will need to bring all his skills to bear in order to find a solution. But the greatest threat to humanity’s safety may well be closer than he expects. Because his sister is the most powerful priestess the world has ever seen… and she’s fighting for the monsters.


The fate of all races, human and magical, rests in their hands, and the only person standing in their way is each other.

Obviously, I need to read Voidbreaker. In case you missed them, I loved the previous two books, Soulkeeper and Ravencaller. This one kinda snuck up on me though, so I don’t have any idea when I’ll get around to it. As for History of What Comes Next, it’s still early, but I’ve heard some things… and I might end up waiting on it a bit. It’ll still be around later this year, I imagine.

TBR for February

Infernal – by Mark de Jager

Goodreads

Stratus wakes in an unfamiliar place, with nothing but the knowledge that he is not human, with no memories of his past but possessing great strength, a powerful sorcery and the burning instinct to survive at any cost.

Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by the ten year war between the Kingdoms of Krandin and Penullin, now reaching new levels of savagery as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.

As his personality grows with each step he slowly uncovers the truth of what he has become and the unquenchable thirst for vengeance that has led him there.

Shorefall – by Robert Jackson Bennett

Goodreads

Having narrowly saved the metropolis of Tevanne from destruction, Sancia Grado and her allies have turned to their next task: sowing the seeds of a full-on magical-industrial revolution. If they succeed, the secrets behind scriving—the art of imbuing everyday objects with sentience—will be accessible to all of Tevanne’s citizens, much to the displeasure of the robber-barons who’ve hoarded this knowledge for themselves.  
 
But one of Sancia’s enemies has embarked on a desperate gambit, an attempt to resurrect a figure straight out of legend—an immortal being known as a heirophant. Long ago, the heirophant was an ordinary man, but he’s used scriving to transform himself into something closer to a god. Once awakened, he’ll stop at nothing to remake the world in his horrifying image.
 
And if Sancia can’t stop this ancient power from returning? Well, the only way to fight a god…is with another god.

The Glass Breaks – by A.J. Smith

Goodreads

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

Okay so hopefully (fingers crossed) I’ll be able to get through two of these before March. I’m not super optimistic, as life, and my plans, and what I feel like always seem to get in the way of things. But if nothing else, I’ll probably try to make time for The Glass Breaks, as #2 is coming out in March. That being said, I really want to read the other two, and maybe, maybe I’ll have time to run through two or three?

Music

Jylhä – Korpiklaani (2 • 06)

Death by Rock and Roll – The Pretty Reckless (2 • 12)

Amorphous – Icon for Hire (2 • 19)

Omega – Epica (2 • 26)

Jylhä is far and away the bit of music I’m most excited about this month. Korpiklaani’s 11th official album serves as an intro to February (I mean, I’m not doing anything important before then). If you haven’t heard of them band before, know that it’s a folk metal outfit from Finland and that they sing almost entirely in Finnish. If you’re unfamiliar with folk metal, give it a listen? It features a milder sound than much of metal, along with the addition of the violin and the accordion.

Currently Reading

Cage of Souls – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Goodreads

The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, surviving on the debris of its long-dead progenitors, Shadrapar is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new, is Stefan Advani, rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will treat with monsters, madman, mutants. The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

A Rising Man – by Abir Mukherjee

Goodreads

Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatise to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj.

A senior British official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues–arrogant Inspector Digby, who can barely conceal his contempt for the natives and British-educated, but Indian-born Sargeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID–embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.

So far both are pretty good, but I’ve only just started each.

Currently Playing

Greedfall

Spiders • 2019

16 hrs in / 14% trophy completion

Free from PS Plus last month, Greedfall is a game I’ve been meaning to play. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is fun thus far. While both the platforming and textures have some issues, as does the combat, none are deal- or game-breaking. The graphics are pretty nice, and everything works a whole lot better than I’d expect with only an install size of 12 gigs. Haven’t encountered any noticeable bugs, nor have I rage-quit anything. As for the combat, I just suck at that, but there was a 70-80% chance of that happening regardless. Built on political intrigue and shaped by how one deals with all the different factions, Greedfall seems to combine choice and time management in order to direct the player through the game to one of several different endings. I haven’t screwed anything up terribly yet, but it’s still early yet.

Life

In life news, I just got over COVID again, which wasn’t any more fun the second time around. It’s also made me a bit pissed at the world as leading up to it, I hadn’t gone anywhere but to the store and work since August, and haven’t gone anywhere at all without a mask since I had it before (last March). And yet I got it, likely from one of the decent number here whom refuse to wear masks and/or maintain that the whole thing is a hoax. And… that’s it. Rant over. These things happen.

Let’s not talk anymore about it, eh?

So, what’s everyone think on the books or music front? Anything you’d like to read of the stuff above? Anything I need to add to my list (there always is!)? Anything about the general state of the world? Is 2021 going to be everything we’ve all hoped, or just more of 2020? Thanks for reading, do let me know what y’all are up to!

Black Heart Update

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

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

Then the updates stopped.

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

Well, on December 31, he posted Chapter 38.

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

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

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

TL;DR

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

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

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

I do really hope Black Heart becomes a thing.

2021 TBR – A Constant Struggle

So, only 51 weeks of 2021 left!

In other news my TBR this year has been terrible. I’ve literally mocked up dozens of lists. There’re a few mainstays, but mostly it’s chaos. I’ve a decent amount of actual books that I want to read and already own—and then an absolute quagmire of other titles that I WANT to read but don’t have a copy.

I tried and tried, but I just can’t settle on one 18 book list. And I don’t want it to be too long, as it’ll just seem overwhelming. Moreover, I couldn’t even settle on a single, shorter list because I kept wanting to add other titles.

And so here we are.

TBR 2021

Shorefall – by Robert Jackson Bennett (The Founders #2)

One of the ARCs I missed in 2020 joins the TBR in 2021. I can’t wait to get back to this world!

Having narrowly saved the metropolis of Tevanne from destruction, Sancia Grado and her allies have turned to their next task: sowing the seeds of a full-on magical-industrial revolution. If they succeed, the secrets behind scriving—the art of imbuing everyday objects with sentience—will be accessible to all of Tevanne’s citizens, much to the displeasure of the robber-barons who’ve hoarded this knowledge for themselves.  
 
But one of Sancia’s enemies has embarked on a desperate gambit, an attempt to resurrect a figure straight out of legend—an immortal being known as a heirophant. Long ago, the heirophant was an ordinary man, but he’s used scriving to transform himself into something closer to a god. Once awakened, he’ll stop at nothing to remake the world in his horrifying image.
 
And if Sancia can’t stop this ancient power from returning? Well, the only way to fight a god…is with another god.

Forest of Souls – by Lori M. Lee (Shamanborn #1)

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.

Babylon’s Ashes – by James S.A. Corey (The Expanse #6)

The only returning title on my main TBR, with the series conclusion Leviathan Falls dropping this year, I will prioritize it. Y’know, maybe.

A revolution brewing for generations has begun in fire. It will end in blood.

The Free Navy – a violent group of Belters in black-market military ships – has crippled the Earth and begun a campaign of piracy and violence among the outer planets. The colony ships heading for the thousand new worlds on the far side of the alien ring gates are easy prey, and no single navy remains strong enough to protect them.

James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network.

But the new alliances are as flawed as the old, and the struggle for power has only just begun. As the chaos grows, an alien mystery deepens. Pirate fleets, mutiny and betrayal may be the least of the Rocinante‘s problems. And in the uncanny spaces past the ring gates, the choices of a few damaged and desperate people may determine the fate of more than just humanity.

A Man of Shadows – by Jeff Noon (Nyquist Investigations #1)

A mystery based in the strangeness of a world of fixed light and darkness, I started this last year but then my library loan ended and COVID hit and closed it so I never got it back.

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.

Infernal – by Mark de Jager

Another ARC from last year—I’ve heard great things about Infernal, and the first chapter is AMAZING the reason I requested it in the first place.

Stratus wakes in an unfamiliar place, with nothing but the knowledge that he is not human, with no memories of his past but possessing great strength, a powerful sorcery and the burning instinct to survive at any cost.

Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by the ten year war between the Kingdoms of Krandin and Penullin, now reaching new levels of savagery as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.

As his personality grows with each step he slowly uncovers the truth of what he has become and the unquenchable thirst for vengeance that has led him there.

Cage of Souls – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Half Fallout, half Matrix—all Tchaikovsky. I featured this in my Christmas book buying guide: books that I hadn’t read, and I’d really like to change all that.

The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapar, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, surviving on the debris of its long-dead progenitors, Shadrapar is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new, is Stefan Advani, rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will treat with monsters, madman, mutants. The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

Flight of the Darkstar Dragon – by Benedict Patrick (Darkstar #1)

Included in the Kickstarter I backed last year, the Darkstar Dragon is the first in a new series by weird horror author Benedict Patrick. I’ve mostly enjoyed my time with his Yarnsworld books, but am also ready to see what else he had to offer.

Impossible world. Impossible dragon. Impossible adventure.

Lost with her ship and crew in an unfamiliar land, Min’s first command could be her last.

Nothing here behaves the way it should:

The magic that powers her skyship has been drained, rendering it immobile.

The sky is an endless twilight, lit by the luminous fish that swim in it.

Off starboard, there’s also the country-sized dragon that is looking particularly hungry.

It will take all of Min’s training and experience to get her people safely back home, but as the truth about the Darkstar Dimension begins to be revealed, Min will have to prove to her crew – and to herself – that she is still the best person for the job.

A Rising Man – by Abir Mukherjee (Sam Wyndham #1)

I was actually shopping for books for my father for Christmas when I came across this. Though I ultimately didn’t end up buying it for him, it sounded so interesting I kept coming back to it myself. Supposedly it’s really quite good…

Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. But with barely a moment to acclimatise to his new life or to deal with the ghosts which still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj.

A senior British official has been murdered, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India: or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues–arrogant Inspector Digby, who can barely conceal his contempt for the natives and British-educated, but Indian-born Sargeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID–embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.

Salvation – by Peter F. Hamilton (Salvation Sequence #1)

So far this seems to be a strangely connected story of strange flashbacks and stranger events. But I can’t stop reading it. So… good?

In 2204, humanity is expanding into the wider galaxy in leaps and bounds. A new technology of linked jump gates has rendered most forms of transportation–including starships–virtually obsolete. Every place on earth, every distant planet mankind has settled, is now merely a step away from any other. And all seems wonderful…until a crashed alien spaceship is found on a newly-located world 89 light years from Earth, harboring seventeen human victims. And of the high-powered team dispatched to investigate the mystery, one is an alien spy…

Jade City – by Fonda Lee (Green Bone Saga #1)

A read I missed one, two years back? Now’s the time. Why? Three words. Overdue Audible credits.


The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.
The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.
When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

One, the Other, or Both

So, I’ve copies of both of these, each one by the same author. Initially, I was just going to go one or the other as a way to keep my numbers for the year reasonable, but really—I’m going to read both Sanderson’s anyway, so there’s that. Do you have a suggestion for which of the others I read and which I ignore? Let me know (please)!

Once and Future Witches / Ten Thousand Doors of January – by Alix E. Harrow

A book about love, adventure, danger and a story untold mingles with a tale of the return of magic and three sisters with a past that needs afixing.

The Builders / Those Above – by Daniel Polansky

A war against the gods or a grimdark redwall, which sounds better?

Rhythm of War / Dawnshard – by Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I’m definitely gonna read these both, just as soon as I finish my Stormlight reread.

AAAAAUUUUGGGHHHHH I want to read them now!

Gates of the Dead / Seven Forges – by James A. Moore

The Tides of War is actually pretty underrated but Seven Forges began it all, plus I got the entire series (to date at least, Book #5 comes out later this year) for about a $1 over Christmas.

Some Additional TBR

Warrior of the Altaii – by Robert Jordan

Draw near and listen, or else time is at an end.

The watering holes of the Plain are drying up, the fearsome fanghorn grow more numerous, and bad omens abound. Wulfgar, a leader of the Altaii people, must contend with twin queens, warlords, prophets and magic in hopes of protecting his people and securing their future. Elspeth, a visitor from another world, holds the answers, but first Wulfgar must learn to ask the right questions.

But what if the knowledge that saves the Altaii will also destroy them?

Great North Road – by Peter F. Hamilton

This is one intimidating brick of a book. I feel more embarrassed carrying it around to read than I would building a wall out of them. I only have the one, though, and one does not a wall make.

A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family – composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone “brothers” have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies.

Or maybe not so friendly. At least that’s what the murder of a North clone in the English city of Newcastle suggests to Detective Sidney Hurst. Sid is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand off this hot potato of a case. The way he figures it, whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career. Yet Sid’s case is about to take an unexpected turn: Because the circumstances of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to a killing that took place years ago on the planet St. Libra, where a North clone and his entire household were slaughtered in cold blood.

The convicted slayer, Angela Tramelo, has always claimed her innocence. And now it seems she may have been right. Because only the St. Libra killer could have committed the Newcastle crime. Problem is, Angela also claims that the murderer was an alien monster.

Now Sid must navigate through a Byzantine minefield of competing interests within the police department and the world’s political and economic elite…all the while hunting down a brutal killer poised to strike again. And on St. Libra, Angela, newly released from prison, joins a mission to hunt down the elusive alien, only to learn that the line between hunter and hunted is a thin one.

The Bone Shard Daughter – by Andrea Stewart (Drowning Empire #1)

I’ve heard great things and the story kinda reminds me of a mashup of the Empire of Storms and Gods of Blood & Powder, yet unique.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognize her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

The Trouble With Peace – by Joe Abercrombie (Age of Madness #2)

Is there anything I need to say about this? It’s Jabercrombie. Of course I’m gonna read it. Not sure how I missed it last year anyhow.

Savine dan Glokta, once Adua’s most powerful investor, finds her judgement, fortune and reputation in tatters. But she still has all her ambitions, and no scruple will be permitted to stand in her way.

For heroes like Leo dan Brock and Stour Nightfall, only happy with swords drawn, peace is an ordeal to end as soon as possible. But grievances must be nursed, power seized and allies gathered first, while Rikke must master the power of the Long Eye . . . before it kills her.

The Breakers still lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while noblemen bicker for their own advantage. Orso struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only for his enemies, and his debts, to multiply.

The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace, lasts forever.

The Twisted Ones – by T. Kingfisher

When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother’s house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?

Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.

Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.

Last Mortal Bond – by Brian Staveley (Unhewn Throne #3)

With Staveley’s next epic on the horizon, I really need to knock out his first series if I ever want to worry about the second. Plus it’ll be good to finish another series versus stalling in the middle.

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all–Valyn, Adare, and Kaden–come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

Planetside – by Michael Mammay (Planetside #1)

War heroes aren’t usually called out of semi-retirement and sent to the far reaches of the galaxy for a routine investigation. So when Colonel Carl Butler answers the call from an old and powerful friend, he knows it’s something big—and he’s not being told the whole story. A high councilor’s son has gone MIA out of Cappa Base, the space station orbiting a battle-ravaged planet. The young lieutenant had been wounded and evacuated—but there’s no record of him having ever arrived at hospital command. 

The colonel quickly finds Cappa Base to be a labyrinth of dead ends and sabotage: the hospital commander stonewalls him, the Special Ops leader won’t come off the planet, witnesses go missing, radar data disappears, and that’s before he encounters the alien enemy. Butler has no choice but to drop down onto a hostile planet—because someone is using the war zone as a cover. The answers are there—Butler just has to make it back alive…

Kingdom of Liars – by Nick Martell (Legacy of the Mercany Kings #2)


Michael is branded a traitor as a child because of the murder of the king’s nine-year-old son, by his father David Kingman. Ten years later on Michael lives a hardscrabble life, with his sister Gwen, performing crimes with his friends against minor royals in a weak attempt at striking back at the world that rejects him and his family.

In a world where memory is the coin that pays for magic, Michael knows something is there in the hot white emptiness of his mind. So when the opportunity arrives to get folded back into court, via the most politically dangerous member of the kingdom’s royal council, Michael takes it, desperate to find a way back to his past. He discovers a royal family that is spiraling into a self-serving dictatorship as gun-wielding rebels clash against magically trained militia.

What the truth holds is a set of shocking revelations that will completely change the Hollows, if Michael and his friends and family can survive long enough to see it.

Stormtide – by Den Patrick (Ashen Torment #2)

While I was annoyed with the 2nd half of #1, I figure it probably time to give #2 a try. If nothing else, I’ll DNF it and not regret anything.

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.

Returning from 2020

You can find my 2020 TBR here, or we could just forget it and pretend it no longer exists 😉

After Atlas – by Emma Newman (Planetfall Universe #2)

The Spider’s War – by Daniel Abraham (Dagger & Coin #5)

Vengeful – by V.E. Schwab (Villains #2)

The Grey Bastards – by Jonathan French (Lot Lands #1)

The Flames of Shadam Khoreh – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Lays of Anuskaya #3)

Metro 2035 – by Dmitry Glukhovsky (Metro #3)

So, do our TBR shelves share anything? Or do you need to gush/rage about any of these? Or have you read some and should I peruse your own reviews? Let me know (please)! And good luck to everyone on a successful year of reading (remember: 2022 is only 50 1/2 weeks away 🙂

Book Loot – Christmas 2020 & January 2021

Didn’t get a ton of books for Christmas this year, for whatever reason. Combined with the amount I was working over the holidays and an inherent lethargy on my part, I didn’t get a haul post done for December. Not that I bought a bunch of books during Ketchup Month anyhow (nor did I get much in the way of catch-up done). So we’ll just combine December and January here.

ARCs for January

The Scorpion’s Tail – by Preston & Child (1/07 UK • 1/12 US)

The second Nora Kelly/Corrie Swanson spinoff features our favorite duo in the wastes of New Mexico and includes a gold cross, a mummified corpse, a missing gold mine, and a famed event in US/World history.

Doors of Sleep – by Tim Pratt (1/12)

My first Pratt book, Doors of Sleep features capital-T Traveler Zaxony Delatree, who travels to a new universe every time he falls asleep. Seriously, that’s all I needed to hear about this one to want to read it. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also an enemy, the fate of the multiverse, and a talking crystal.

Fable – by Adrienne Young (1/26 UK)

A title I thoroughly regretted missing in 2020 despite its mixed reviews gets a release in the UK, which allows me to score a review copy. This survival YA features 17-year-old trader Fable in a quest to find her missing father and reclaim her place at the head of his trading empire. There’s some pirates, a desert island, and a good quest—always solid.

Extraterrestrial – by Avi Loeb (1/26)

The science entry well-known astrophysicist Avi Loeb examines the possibility that the first extrasolar object that we know of to enter our solar system—’Oumuamua, which passed through in 2017—was in fact a sign of extraterrestrial life. Though it’s not a common theory in academia, it is quite the hypothesis, and one that made highly interesting read!

Purchases

I decided to re-up Audible this year, but had a few credits to use before they expire later this month. Enter a flurry of new books:

A Rising Man – by Abir Mukherjee

Set during Colonial India, Captain Sam Wyndham arrives in Kolkata to investigate the murder of a senior crown official, whose death comes at a time of rising tensions and dissent between the empire and the colony. Taking him luxurious palaces to seedy opium dens, the mystery will test all of Wyndham’s skill set—and may just prove too much for him altogether.

Warrior of the Altaii – by Robert Jordan

Meant to be the first in a brand new series, this standalone was published posthumously in 2019. As the plains dry up, Wulfgar of the Altaii must lead his people past dangers, wizards and prophets in order to secure their future.

Trail of Lightning – by Rebecca Roanhorse

The rise of the sea has wrought an apocalypse but also somehow returned gods and daemons to once more walk the land. Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter tasked with returning a missing girl to her small town. But the truth behind the girl’s disappearance may well unearth secrets better left buried—particularly those of Maggie herself.

Great North Road – by Peter F. Hamilton

What do a murdered clone, a convicted killer, and an alien monster have in common? Well, for one, they’re all featured in the blurb for this book. An absolute brick of a tome, this Hamilton novel features an investigator, wormhole tech, and maybe some aliens. It’s a lengthy one—that I’ve had on my TBR for years but has always intimidated me with its sheer size.

Gifts

Rhythm of War – by Brandon Sanderson

I’m not even going to introduce this one. It’s self-explanatory. Might take me a bit to get to what with the Stormlight reread and all—but I WILL GET THERE. And I can’t imagine it won’t be worth the wait, but I still kinda want to read it straightaway.

Made Things – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Coppelia is a street thief, one very good at making friends. But instead of flesh, some of her friends are made out of wood or steel. Their partnership is sometimes tenuous, but mostly solid. But when a threat threatens (“threat threatens”, yeah I know) their city, these friends must solve it together, or die apart. Not a huge novella fan, but Tchaikovsky is an obvious exception to that.

So, these are the swags for this January/December. As of writing this, the world is… I seriously have no words. I just… I just don’t know anymore. Anyway, lemme know if you’ve read any of these, or if there’re others I should have on my radar. Everyone keep safe and be well!

On Tap 1/6/21

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

Oh well, maybe next year.

Currently Reading

The Way of Kings – by Brandon Sanderson

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

Salvation – by Peter F. Hamilton

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

Extraterrestrial – by Avi Loeb

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

Upcoming

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

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