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!

ARC

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)

Standalone

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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)

Standalone

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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;)

Top 12 of 2021

Welcome to My Top Books of 2021! It’s been quite the year, and I’ve had more than enough time to read again this year, as my immune system hasn’t been the same since I had COVID—in 2020. Lots of sick time this year, and lots of strange work hours, and lots of canceled plans meant lots of reading time. Which wasn’t all bad, tbh.

While I might try to knock out a Most Anticipated list for the first half or quarter or third or whatever 2022, that’ll have to wait until we’re done sending off 2021. So without further ado…

12 – TIE

Rabbits – by Terry Miles

Standalone

GoodreadsReview

The Second Bell – by Gabriela Houston

Standalone

GoodreadsReview

Couldn’t make up my mind between these two standalones—both authorial debuts of 2021! Rabbits told an exciting if ofttimes confusing tale of a competition you didn’t know was happening unless you were in it, and maybe not even then. Indeed you could march all the way to your grave not knowing you were playing! On the other side, The Second Bell told of a child born with two hearts—one a normal human heart, the other a darker, blacker one. I also loved this story of Slavic folklore, but I must admit it didn’t leave a very lasting impression.

11

The Lights of Prague – by Nicole Jarvis

Standalone

GoodreadsReview

The Lights of Prague is a tale of love and vampires in a dark and gothic city. Another debut work, this is a great read for people just off the Empire of the Vampire, or someone after something with a dark, romantic twist that also provides plenty of action, mystery, and thrill. Though I initially rated it a bit lower than some of these others, it left a lasting impression.

10

How to Forage for Mushrooms without Dying – by Frank Hyman

Goodreads • Review

The first of two non-fiction offerings, How to Forage for Mushrooms is a beginner’s guide for how to forage for mushrooms “without dying”. I had planned to read this and then forage and then, having not died, review it. Turns out, while incredibly helpful and interesting, quite a lot of the mushrooms in here are found on either the East coast, West coast, or Heartland. And since I live firmly in the Rockies, most were already out of season by the time I read it. So the foraging will have to wait for the spring. But it’s still a good read for any wannabe mycologists out there!

9

Blood of Chosen – by Django Wexler

Burningblade & Silvereye #2

GoodreadsReview

The followup to my Book of 2020 failed to live up to its somewhat unfair standard that Ashes of the Sun set last year. But still was a thoroughly interesting, thoroughly exciting tale of a brother and sister torn apart, on either side of a war that they each are beginning to feel like little more than pawns in. Possessive of a deep, vivid and richly built science fiction world, this fantasy blends the genres into something that I can’t exactly class, but could definitely fall in love with.

8

Nowhere to Hide – by Nell Pattison

Standalone

GoodreadsReview

Seven friends, seven POVs, seven would-be killers. All horrible people. I was disgusted by each and every one before the book ended. But found that I could relate to most of them, as well. A lovely thriller that you’ll either love or hate, Nowhere to Hide slides into #8 on my list, just missing out on the Top 7 by virtue of having a rating lower than perfect at 4.8.

7

Extraterrestrial – by Avi Loeb

GoodreadsReview

My second “non-fiction” read of the year blurs the line between non- and fiction. It’s a science/astronomy entry by physicist Avi Loeb, and discusses the—in his opinion—very real, obvious existence of extraterrestrial life. Now, I do believe in aliens, but not in the old-fashioned sense of the little green men and abductions and the like. I just feel that the human (and often religious) stance that we’re alone in the universe is the height of hubris, a misplaced one at that. Regardless of my own opinions—which Loeb doesn’t particularly share—Extraterrestrial is a good read for anyone who has never tried to justify the existence of extraterrestrial life through scientific means. I will note that at times the text gets into dense scientific terms and mathematics, but Loeb often takes the time to simplify it afterwards for the casual reader.

6

Voidbreaker – by David Dalglish

The Keepers #3

GoodreadsReview

The final (?) volume of the Keepers trilogy wraps up the war between the humans and dragon-sired in a way I’d never have seen coming. There’s nothing simple about this one. No real winners. Many, many losers. Blood, death, flame, unrest, and chaos. Lots of chaos. I love a good dark, chaotic read, particularly when it keeps its head. I’ve now read double-digits of Dalglish’s books and I’ve the feeling that while these were as close to perfect as imaginable, the best are still yet to come.

5

Firesky – by Mark de Jager

Chronicles of Stratus #2

GoodreadsReview

Firesky concludes the Chronicles of Stratus with a roar—one that shakes the world to its core. I treated the Chronicles as one long volume as Infernal just up and left off in the middle of the original tale. As such, these are best read back-to-back, though there is a recap for those who chose not to do this. The fact is that Stratus is possessed of a unique and interesting voice, one that reflects just the kind of man he is. I cannot recommend this adventure enough, particularly as an audiobook! To be fair, Firesky’s ’21 release was a reissue, but as I’d never read it, I treated it as new for this year.

4

The Pariah – by Anthony Ryan

Covenant of Steel #1

GoodreadsReview

The Top 4 were impossible choices. My favorite books of the year that could’ve fitted into any of the places 1-4. I spent far too much of my time on this and still am not 100% happy with my choices. But… close enough. The Pariah leads the way at #4, as Ryan’s books often start out strong but ultimately suffer a sophomore slump (or, as much of a slump you get when going from 6/5 to 4.5/5 stars). Alwyn Scribe was quite the character to read despite his conflicted feelings, deeply human flaws, and foolish, idiotic hope in the face of what would generally be overwhelming cynicism. The world-building is top notch, the characters deep and well-thought-out, and the story amazing.

3

Power doesn’t need a purpose:
Power is its own purpose.
It is the only goal that has value in itself,
because it is the means by which all other goals are achieved.

Risen – by Benedict Jacka

Alex Verus #12

GoodreadsReview

Originally my #2, I bumped it to 3 after consulting what I took away from each book and just how perfect an ending it was considering all the factors. While I’m happy to report that the Alex Verus saga ended incredibly well considering there were a dozen books in it—it wasn’t perfect. Very few things are. But over the same amount of pages, I counted its imperfection enough to send it down a space (though I’m really just nitpicking at this point). Honestly, I’m thrilled that this series ended so well! There’s no Dresden Droop, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s a five-star read for sure, one that’s more than worth the wait!

2

‘ When at last the fields do wither,
When the stricken fade;
The Gods shall pass beyond the veil,
And the land shall be remade. ‘

A Desert Torn Asunder – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Song of the Shattered Sands #6

GoodreadsReview

Where Risen wasn’t the perfect conclusion to the Alex Verus series, A Desert Torn Asunder isn’t the perfect ending to the Shattered Sands either. But it was damn close. The simple fact is that the ending stuck with me in such detail that it jumped to #2. The world-building and story were so amazing that they almost could have won it the year, but ultimately had to settle for second. Thing is that I’ve adored the Shattered Sands despite the minor missteps that have plagued the series. But it’s awful hard to complain about a series repeatedly churning out 4.5 star entries. Particularly when it ends on such a high note.

1

They were moving through a land of tree-cloaked hills and shadow-dark valleys, of sun-drenched meadows and rivers winding and glistening like jewel-crusted serpents that coiled through the land. The new-risen sun blazed bright as Varg stepped out on to a hillside of rolling meadow and left the trees behind him.

The Shadow of the Gods – by John Gwynne

Bloodsworn Saga #1

GoodreadsReview

What ultimately ensconced Shadow of the Gods at #1 was that I had nothing negative to say about it. Absolutely nothing. It not only lived up to the hype: this book killed it. It wasn’t the perfect read (no read is absolutely perfect) but it was as close as money can buy. The world-building, the characters, the lore, the journey, the story, the execution—this has it all. And it’s still only the first of a series. I cannot wait to see where the story leads, but like Ashes of the Sun before it, Shadow of the Gods has set the bar so high that its sequel cannot possibly live up to the expectations. Unless it does.

Hope y’all enjoyed it! If you’re a reader, I hope you’ve enjoyed at least a few of these, but if you’ve yet to discover any, I can only pray that you end up liking them half as much as I did! If you’re a blogger, I can’t wait to see your own lists and picks for this year! If you’re either or neither or both, I’d love to hear what you thought! Or anything you’d like to see more of, or any other comments or questions you have! Rest easy, 2021—you tried, that’s enough.

Top Existing Books I Read in 2021

Part One of my best books of the year, with a few shoutouts as well. Stay tuned for my favorite new books of the year, coming soon! Been dealing with vertigo this holiday season, so we’re gonna leave it at that. Let me know how you like the list, and if you’ve read any of these, eh?

Honorable Mentions

#6

Shorefall – by Robert Jackson Bennett

2020

GoodreadsReview

The followup to Foundryside, Shorefall is the return to… wow I can’t even remember the name. See, I remember really liking it, and I remember the story and plot and characters, but all the place names are just gone. And I refuse to look them up now. Anywho~ in Shorefall we learn the best way to fight a rogue god. And that’d by resurrecting another to fight it of course. The chaos that ensues is completely normal and expected, if entertaining.

#5

Mexican Gothic – by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

2020

Goodreads • Review

It’s really hard to fault everyone who told me to read Mexican Gothic over and over and over again. Possessed of a haunting story in a mysterious setting and a plot that involves hallucinations, ghosts, and eugenics, this is quite the read. It probably would’ve done better if I was a bigger fan of horror, but as it happens really held its own through the end. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more like this, and maybe even listen to what people tell me to read from now on. Special thanks to Jade and Ola for finally getting me to read it!

#4

Outpost – by W. Michael Gear

2018

GoodreadsReview

If you pick the series that I wish I’d have dug more into this year, Donovan would be in the Top, well… One. While I only made it through Outpost, the first in the series, it featured an entirely alien world, full of flora and fauna both that want you dead, existing colonists that want you dead, and circumstances that want you dead. But a story you very much want to see through to the end. A vibrant setting, interesting characters, and vivid world-building top the list of reasons to read Outpost, but they don’t just stop there. Props to Mogsy and Tammy for finally getting me on this one!

#3

Malice – by John Gwynne

2012

Goodreads

This was the third time I’ve read Malice, and it continues to be great—though not on par with the rest of the series following it. But that’s really how you want it: for the first entry of your coming-of-age tale to be the weakest link. I mean, it’s still a good read. Quite a good read, in fact, but this time around I found myself skipping some of Corban’s less entertaining moments to read more about Camlin and Veradis. Not that that’s surprising for a me, but the books I truly love throughout I’ll sit down to reread a chapter I loved and find myself still reading on from that part an hour or so hence.

#2

Wyndham & Banerjee Mysteries – by Abir Mukherjee

2016 • 2017 • 2018

A Rising Man – GoodreadsReview

A Necessary Evil – GoodreadsReview

Smoke and Ashes – Goodreads • Review

There were a couple new series I discovered this year that have impressed me, and the better of the two comes in here at #2. While City of the Lost (Rockton #1) was on par with any of the Wyndham novels, its sequels were most certainly not. If you love a good mystery, set in historical British India no less, then I’d definitely recommend this series, which is five books long at present (though only three are out on audio—four if you’re shopping the European store). While I’ve only read three thus far, there has been no low point, and honestly they just keep getting better.

#1

Flight of the Darkstar Dragon – by Benedict Patrick

2019

GoodreadsReview

This is a bit of a surprise. When I first started putting this list together, the Darkstar Dragon maxed out at #3. Only when I typed it up did it suddenly jump to number one; after I re-examined what made it a killer read for me. And just like that I relived the adventure with Min and her crew. Last year when I optimistically threw some money at a Kickstarter I had no idea that I’d discover what has proved to be one of my new favorite authors, but here we are! And I still have a handful of Yarnsworld stories to read through before the release of Return of the Whalefleet—Darkstar #2—early next year.

My Top Novellas of 2021

Welcome to List Season! It is among my most favorite times of the year, where we bloggers wind down the year by the numbers and choose our favorite titles from another year of reading! There’s usually a bit of general overlap, but also quite a bit of gems that haven’t made it onto other’s lists—be they too obscure, too late in a series, or just because not one of us can possibly keep up with all the releases in a single year. This year I’ve decided to do several lists (assuming I follow through), including a Top New Books, Top Old Books, and Top Novellas. In addition, I’ll still be featuring a Christmas Buying Guide like I did last year (and which I thoroughly enjoyed making), but it’ll be a post-Christmas thing designed for gift cards or gifts that might’ve fallen through the cracks.

But first, the Top Novellas!

Each is from 2021, and I’ve had to read them. Otherwise… well, you’ll see! Hope you like them!

#6

Remote Control – by Nnedi Okorafor

GoodreadsReview

$11 ebook / 156 pg

The first entry of this list comes from a novella I picked up from my local library during Scifi Month, as I felt I didn’t have enough science fiction to read otherwise. While not a fan of Binti, I quite enjoyed Remote Control, which is set in a slightly futuristic Ghana, and features extraterrestrial tech, or magic, or something, all revolving around the life of a wee lass, Fatima. It was weird and it was interesting and it was unusual, and it made a for a great read! I do remember it was a wee bit expensive however, so maybe try to find it at a discount.

#5

The Alien Stars – by Tim Pratt

GoodreadsReview

$7 ebook (omnibus edition) / 238 pg

Available as part of an omnibus of three novellas from Pratt’s Axiom universe, the Alien Stars is both the title of the triptych and the third volume within, respectively. For purposes of this #5 spot, I’m referring only to the 3rd novella in the volume, though I’m happy to report the first story was also a good read (don’t get me started on #2)! Try though I might, I couldn’t find it anywhere other than in the omnibus volume, though you may be able to get it on his Patreon somewhere. Anyway, it’s a good read. ‘Nough said.

#4

The Loyalist Witch Novellas – by D.B. Jackson

The Witch’s Storm – GoodreadsReview

The Cloud Prison – GoodreadsReview

The Adams Gambit – Goodreads

$3/each ebooks / ~100 pg/each

I may’ve only gotten through two of the trilogy this year, but I’ve no doubt that as long as the third continues in the same vein that it’ll make it on this list as well. All in all, the Loyalist Witch was an amazing return to the world of Ethan Kaille, albeit to find a very different thieftaker than we’d seen in years past. Ethan has changed—and Boston has changed right along with it. If you’re returning fans of Thieftaker, these are a must-read, but welcome newcomers to the series as well. While originally released as a trilogy of novellas, the entire set is now available in a complete volume, as you can see HERE.

#3

Fugitive Telemetry – by Martha Wells

GoodreadsReview

$12 ebook / 176 pg

2021 marked a return to the world of Murderbot, albeit one before the release of the full-length novel, Network Effect. It was great getting back in the groove with our old pal Murderbot and their trust issues and social anxiety, something I’d quite like to see more of in the future. But I’d also like to see where they go from here, and how they evolve as a… well… “person”.

#2

One Day All This Will Be Yours – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

GoodreadsReview

$10 ebook / 192 pg

This is starting to feel like a yearly thing, where I choose one of Tchaikovsky’s novellas for my ‘Favorites’ list. And so I guess 2021 is no different, for it features a pair of his novellas, including one that has been met with so much critical success in Elder Race—and this little one published back in March. Elder Race did not make this list (mostly because I didn’t read it), but there was no worry in Tchaikovsky missing out altogether, as this quaint little time traveling story has not one, but THREE Jack the Rippers.

#1

City of Songs – by Anthony Ryan

GoodreadsReview

$5 ebook / 160 pg

The third issue in the Seven Swords series, and Anthony Ryan has produced his best novella yet. Exiled King Guyime and his allies come to the fabled City of Songs seeking a missing child, an additional five demon blades, and redemption. By this point in the series, the world-building has started to flesh out a bit, and has left me with the need to see and explore more of this world of wonders that the author has built. I’ve very little negative to say about the series thus far which—after reading several of Ryan’s other novellas set elsewhere—is about the highest praise I can give. So do yourself a favor and pick this one up (or, if you haven’t read the first, maybe start here with my review of it: A Pilgrimage of Swords).

Well, that’s the list, hope you enjoyed it! I must say that it was only after finishing up that I looked up the price on many of these and—daaaamn. Remember when all novellas were $1-5? Tor.com has really raised the price, haven’t they? All the more reason for me to recommend the City of Songs, as it’s one of the three with a sane price tag (for the length).

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!

Scifi Month 2021 – Wrap Up

Well another Scifi Month is in the books! This was my first year joining in the fun from the start (as it was the first year I actually remembered to line things up), and I have to say that it went way better than I would’ve thought! Granted, I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do, but I’m mostly a mood reader, so it’s quite hard to schedule things in advance. And… I’m not disappointed in the results! Got 6 reviews up, along with some prompts, and had great fun reading everyone else’s posts around the blogosphere. If you missed theirs, I’ll include links to just a few of my favorite sites below so you can go check them out!

Read

Inhibitor Phase – by Alastair Reynolds

Memoria – by Kristyn Merbeth

Blood of the Chosen – by Django Wexler

Remote Control – by Nnedi Okorafor

Additional Reviews

Hard Reboot – by Django Wexler

Every Sky a Song – by Jay Posey

Prompts

My Favorite Scifi Novels of the Last 10 Years

Beautiful World of Books

Revelation Space (Alastair Reynolds)

The Wayfarers (Becky Chambers)

Four Science Fiction Trilogies (Kristyn Merbeth, D. Nolan Clark, Jay Posey, Mike Brooks)

Misses

As always, not everything goes as planned. I had some other posts, reviews and reads that I scrapped for a number of dumb reasons (such as I didn’t get around to writing them, reading them, or so forth). Let’s take a look at a few of those (obviously, these aren’t linked as there’s nothing to link to) here:

• Shards of Earth – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Didn’t have time to read this. Still on the schedule for Ketchup Month, though!

• Project Hail Mary – by Andy Weir

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, sometimes the review just isn’t forthcoming in the writing.

• Salvation – by Peter F. Hamilton

While I’ve heard good things about the rest of the trilogy, the intro piece to the Saints of Salvation is just a collection of vaguely related tales and history set to introduce the cast of the series. I started it earlier this year, and it’s just turned into a slog.

• Beautiful World of Murderbot

Pretty sure you can guess the idea here. It’ll probably happen at some point, but not now!

• The Beauty of the Planet Donovan

Again, a BWoB centered around W. Michael Gear’s series of Donovan. I’d expect this down the line as well.

In Case You may have Missed…

The Bibliosanctum

Books, Bones & Buffy

Space and Sorcery

Realms of My Mind

Reißwolf

The Captain’s Quarters

A Dance With Books

Re-Enchantment of the World

I apologize if I missed you but I had to stop and like, go do things (mostly eat) and really I could just go on for ever and ever with this list. There are so many good blogs out there, go check them out!

And that’s it!! Hopefully I’ll see you next year for more Scifi Month! Otherwise, maybe I’ll see you back tomorrow for the intro to Ketchup Month! Bye!!!

My Favorite SCIFI Novels of the Last Decade

2011

Leviathan Wakes – by James S.A. Corey

The Icarus Effect – by James Swallow

The Martian – by Andy Weir

2012

Pines – by Blake Crouch

The Slab – by Karen Traviss

2013

Steelheart – by Brandon Sanderson

Three – by Jay Posey

2014

Red Rising – by Pierce Brown

Cibola Burn – by James S.A. Corey

2015

The Fold – by Peter Clines

Children of Time – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2016

Morning Star – by Pierce Brown

Hell Divers – by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

2017

Six Wakes – by Mur Lafferty

Company Town – by Madeline Ashby

2018

Record of a Spaceborn Few – by Becky Chambers

Exit Strategy – by Martha Wells

2019

Summer Frost – by Blake Crouch

Fortuna – by Kristyn Merbeth

2020

The God Game – by Danny Tobey

Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz

2021 (thus far)

Doors of Sleep – by Tim Pratt

Project Hail Mary – by Andy Weir

While I’ve tried to avoid repetition from the same series, there were a few years where I didn’t have much choice. Turns out, there were a number of years where I binged little but fantasy. I’m not going to go in-depth on anything here, but I did want to explain 2011. At first, I tried for one book a year, but that was way too restrictive. There were too many years with too many great books I would’ve left out. Next I tried two a year but there were a couple of problems to that as well—specifically 2011, 2016, and 2020. But three was too many. Some years (like 2012-2014) I struggled even to get two. So I settled on two, with the exception of 2011, where I couldn’t avoid including three.

Some of my highlights from this list include:

  1. The Expanse – I’ve only read up to Book 6 but still the series is awesome and needs mentioning.
  2. Andy Weir – even though he had a ten year gap between killer reads (as Artemis fell flat).
  3. Pierce Brown – try as I may, I couldn’t avoid listing two from the Son of Mars trilogy.
  4. Authors Becky Chambers, Martha Wells, Adrian Tchaikovsky who somehow I managed to limit to one year each despite their amazing series.

In all—four authors (Andy Weir, Blake Crouch, James S.A. Corey, & Pierce Brown were featured twice. Brandon Sanderson, Becky Chambers, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, and Martha Wells each made the shortlist multiple times, but only ended up with the one book. There are four authors (Kristyn Merbeth, Danny Tobey, Madeline Ashby and Mur Lafferty) featured despite this being their only book I’ve yet read. And then two books—The Icarus Effect (Deus Ex) and The Slab (Gears of War)—that were based on video game franchises. While I’ve read all of these, I’ve only reviewed 8 of these:

  1. The Fold – by Peter Clines
  2. Hell Divers – by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
  3. Six Wakes – by Mur Lafferty
  4. Summer Frost – by Blake Crouch
  5. Fortuna – by Kristyn Merbeth
  6. The God Game – by Danny Tobey
  7. Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz
  8. Doors of Sleep – by Tim Pratt

…Which I’ve decided to link up because why not.

Don’t know if anyone else is doing a list of their best from the last ten years, but I’d love to see your own picks! Any that I seriously missed on, or forgot to include? Do let me know;)

SCIFI MONTH 2021

Well, welcome to SCIFI Month 2021! Also, happy All Saints Day, if that’s your thing. Personally, I prefer All Souls Day, which is tomorrow. And happy November, which is, as I mentioned before, Scifi Month.

It’s the first year I’ve remembered to prepare something in advance, so we’ll see how it goes. I absolutely loved their headliner last year—done by the talented Tithi Luadthong (whose work you can find HERE ). I loved it so much I featured it for most of this year! This year’s piece is done by Zishan Liu (whose work you can find over HERE ). And as usual, the event is hosted by LISA and IMIRYL, so head over to their sites for some scifi-themed madness and be sure and take a peek at the itinerary.

TBR

Inhibitor Phase – by Alastair Reynolds

Memoria – by Kristyn Merbeth

Shards of Earth – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The first two are books that I’ll try my best to get through in November. Inhibitor Phase has been sitting around for too long and considering its amazing prompt I really want to get into it! Many thanks to Orbit for a physical copy of this! It’s a sleek and lovely cover.

I recently picked up a copy of Memoria in preparation for the upcoming release of the series conclusion Discordia in December. I thoroughly enjoyed Fortuna back in 2019 and am looking forward to continuing the series!

Not sure I’ll get to Shards of Earth, but I’d very much like to. While Tchaikovsky’s stuff has been a bit spotty recently, I’ve heard good things about this one, so I’m optimistic. If it’s anything like Children of Time or his recent novellas, I’m definitely in for it!

Currently Reading

In addition to Inhibitor Phase—which I’ve recently started—I’ve also picked up Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor from my local library. Having never finished an Okorafor story before (Binti just didn’t work for me), hopefully this will provide a good introduction to her work.

Upcoming Reviews

Every Star a Song – by Jay Posey

Hard Reboot – by Django Wexler

Project Hail Mary – by Andy Weir

Obviously I don’t want to say too much about what I think of this before the big reveal, but sufficient to say I didn’t hate any of them. Yet. As of writing this I haven’t actually finished Hard Reboot yet. The short of it is that you shouldn’t have to wait long before there’s a review for all three, but if you do want to read about them in the interim, do click the goodreads link. Check back tomorrow for my review of Every Star a Song!

I can guarantee it won’t be all science fiction from me this month—there are a few ARCs coming in December I’d like to get a head start on; and a few more releases from earlier this year I need to catch-up on yet—but right now this is just how the chips have fallen. In addition to all this, I’m at least starting Nanowrimo (though I might not get anywhere near 50k (actually, I’m only planning on trying for 25k)), and I’m sure life/work will get in the way at some point as well. There’s a list or two I might include at some point, and some scifi covers on Thursdays—this week I’m doing a mashup of Jay Posey and Kristyn Merbeth, then I’ve maybe a Reynolds, Hamilton, and Chambers in the mix for later this month. Lastly, there are a few science fiction games I’m looking at, but the only thing I’m leaning towards is a 2nd Metro: Exodus run, in addition to some DLC.

Hope everyone else has a good month! I can’t wait to read all your prompts!!

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.

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!