Top 12 Books Released in 2022

In the last list I went over my top novellas released this year. In this final list, as an homage to 2022, we’ll cover my 12 favorite new releases for this year, complete with a few honorable mentions, just before it comes to a close.

12th

Mindwalker – by Kate Dylan

ReviewGoodreads

We begin with Mindwalker, a book that I initially skipped, only to pick up on the recommendation of several reviewers touting its YA and cyberpunk themes. While it barely cracks the Top 12, this is a very good read—though maybe not as great as the rest.

11th

Return of the Whale Fleet – by Benedict Patrick

ReviewGoodreads

The latest Darkstar book was actually the one that shook up my first draft of the Top 12, as I’d completely forgotten that it released THIS year. Yeah, I know. While not quite as good as its predecessor, Return of the Whale Fleet was still an immersive and vivid ride through the Darkstar Dimension and parts beyond, while harboring an unexpected bit of darkness behind.

10th

The Martyr – by Anthony Ryan

ReviewGoodreads

“Devotion is inherently nonsensical.”

Sequel to last year’s Pariah—which snuck into the Top 5 at #4—the Martyr wasn’t quite as good, but still managed to deliver on a brilliant fantasy followup, and one of only three sequels on this year’s list (compared to five in 2021).

Honorable Mention: Black Heart

I haven’t completed all three parts of Black Heart, and as such it won’t make this list. While I did enjoy the first two parts enough that it could have been on here, I’d really like to have a somewhat sensical review of it up first—which I won’t until I finish the damned thing. So just know that yes, it’s out, and yes, it’s good, and yes, I’ll have a recommendation on what to do with/how to handle this news when I do eventually finish it. In the meantime I’d say, maybe go check it out yourself? Or have a look at the Barrow, the comics, or my reviews of any of the parts under Mark Smylie’s name here?

9th

Hide – by Kiersten White

ReviewGoodreads

In the end, twelve contestants get massages. They wear beaded masks, so they can’t see the older woman massaging then cries the whole time. She wishes the other two had allowed her to perform this kindness. It’s the only thing she can offer them, the final gift of gratitude for what they’re going to do.

A supernatural thriller from YA fantasy author Kiersten White, Hide was one of my most anticipated releases this year—and one of the rare few that I thought lived up to the hype. Sure, the characters were sometimes a bit over the top, and occasionally the choices they made weren’t great either, but humans do do stupid things and this definitely related that through. The setting—and abandoned amusement park—and the supernatural elements more than made up for anything the characters lacked, however, and I’d gladly read this one again anytime!

8th

The Oleander Sword – by Tasha Suri

ReviewGoodreads

He watched his sister walk around the ceremonial wedding fire, garbed in resplendent red, and thought, My country is dying.
He watched her bow for the garland, and thought, Our father is dying.
He watched her as she lowered her head for the wedding garland, and thought, My sister will die.
And there is nothing I can do.

My last—and highest ranked—sequel of the year cracking the Top 12, Oleander Sword capitalizes on the successes of Suri’s Jasmine Throne, while throwing some additional surprises in as well. The most unexpected of them all (for me, at least) was of a romance done right. I’m now highly anticipating the Burning Kingdoms’ finale, due in late 2023.

7th

Our Crooked Hearts – by Melissa Albert

ReviewGoodreads

So. Magic. It is the loneliest thing in the world.

This paranormal novel highlighting witches and oaths also features a mother-daughter dual POV to tell a highly interesting, immersive tale of love, life, and coming of age. If you weren’t aware that Melissa Albert’s stories often harbor a darkness within them, then you must be new or naïve—something you’re sure to grow out of soon enough.

6th

• Mickey7 – by Edward Ashton •

ReviewGoodreads

He runs both hands back through his hair. “I don’t know… I don’t know… they didn’t cover this situation in training.”
That’s the truth, anyway. Training was one hundred percent about dying. I don’t remember them dedicating much time at all to staying alive.

After a piece of science fiction about learning to love yourself, about life, love and… um, double-penetration? Well, look no further than Mickey7, a novel that truly answers the question ‘If you can, then why not?’ In addition to being interesting, often thrilling, immersive, entertaining, and funny Mickey7 doesn’t waste time trying to take itself too seriously or really even trying to address the dark, almost black humor pervading every part of it. Instead, this novel just incorporates all of these aspects into a story that is wrong on so many levels that it’s somehow so, so right.

Honorable Mentions

5th

• The Immortality Thief – by Taran Hunt •

ReviewGoodreads

There were shadows in the room, Brigid had told me; shadows that wanted to do her harm. Little shadow people, only as tall as she was, half the height our parents were. They gathered in doorways and crouched beside the dresser, and in the dead of night they came out and gathered around her beside like viewers at a funeral while she lay paralyzed.

4th

• The Stardust Thief – by Chelsea Abdullah •

ReviewGoodreads

Legend had it that after slaughtering the marid, the humans hung their corpses from the tops of the cliffs, and there had been so much silver blood running down the rocks, it had transformed into a cascading stream of water. Sometimes, when Loulie stared hard at the streams winding through the city, she thought they glittered like stardust.
It was beautiful, and it was horrible.

The second debut in the top five, the Stardust Thief is a gripping fantasy about stories, adventure, love, and finding one’s place in the world. Four and five were so tight it could’ve gone either way, but I gave the edge Chelsea Abdullah’s book on the grounds that while it was released longer ago, it was still able to make the same impact as an entry released months later.

3rd

• Seven Deaths of an Empire – by G.R. Matthews •

ReviewGoodreads

“If you stopped struggling to get free, the guards would not beat you,” Astenius pointed out.
“Life is struggle,” the warrior said.
“We only stop when we are dead,” Emlyn finished and the warrior’s gaze snapped around to her.
“Who are you to know the sayings of the forest?”
“I am of the forest,” she answered.
“Yet you stand with them,” he accused.
“Not through choice.”
“Then you struggle.”
“I am not dead yet,” she answered.

“Why attack us?” Astenius asked once more.
“You are here to be attacked,” the man answered.
“How many of your warriors were with you?”
“Not enough,” the warrior answered.
“How many more are there?”
“More than enough.”

“Are you sure you wish to do this?” Astenius said to the trapped warrior.
“I struggle,” the man replied, gritting his teeth.
“I applaud your bravery,” Astenius said, sweeping his hand to point at the brazier, “but your stupidity astounds me.”
“Life is disappointment,” the man said.

An unapologetic grimdark about a Roman Empire that could’ve well been, Seven Deaths of an Empire was technically a re-release from last year that I nevertheless included as it was an incredible read that I ended up adoring. My biggest surprise of the year—and a book I ended up requesting on a whim—it creates a vibrant and beautiful world full of deep characters before ultimately tearing everything to shreds. And it provided the (extended) quote of the year for me as well!

2nd

• Spells for Forgetting – by Adrienne Young •

ReviewGoodreads

“There are spells for breaking and spells for mending. But there are no spells for forgetting.”

While this was definitely my book of the second half of the year, it wasn’t quite good enough to take the top spot. I mean, I was definitely splitting hairs at this point, but the fact that I wasn’t completely in love with the true love story ended up costing Spells first place.

1st

• Daughter of Redwinter – by Ed McDonald •

ReviewGoodreads

Friendship is easy to claim and dangerous to test.

What do you really expect me to say about my favorite work of the year? For most stories I give you the good, the bad, and why you should care. For a best of list? I feel like when all the nitpicking is done, I should be able to simply stand back and let this book speak for itself. A fantastic tale about a girl with nothing and no one trying to carve a life for herself out of cold, unyielding stone and red, weeping flesh—all the while dreading to expose her greatest secret, that which literally anyone might kill her over. There, that should be enough—now go read it.

Well, this completes the year! It was… well, it was a whole year that done and happened in 2022, and I’d love to say I won’t miss it at all, but then I said the same for 2019, so who’s to say. I guess I’ll just say that it wasn’t the best year and leave it at that. Luckily, there were some good books—hey like those above, you should really go check them out again!—good games, and good people that made everything worthwhile. Thanks for coming around and reading my nonsense for another year, and stay tuned for more things in 2023, where I’ll probably be less here, but should still be here enough to rant/rave about somesuch. Hope everyone had a good year, and thanks as always for reading!

Top Novellas of 2022

I didn’t read a whole lot of novellas released this year, um, this year, but it was enough that I didn’t want to include them in my upcoming top books of the year list. Because I’m like that. As such, here are my Top 5 novellas of 2022, listed in descending order.

#5

The City Inside – by Samit Basu

ReviewGoodreads

No matter who’s in power, no matter who needs land or blood, no matter which country’s secretly running ours, there’s one thing all sides agree on—the children of the rich must be protected.

A mixed bag of mixed bags, maybe the City Inside is an allegory of life, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s a love story, or about the journey, or the destination, or a parable regarding racism, nationalism, technical advancement, achievement, or satisfaction. The thing is, it’s way too hard to tell just wtf this novella is about as there’s so much competing for your attention in such a small space.

#4

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy – by Becky Chambers

ReviewGoodreads

In a world where people have what they want, what more can anyone offer?

A continuation of the question-asking ability demonstrated in the preceding Monk & Robot—a Psalm for the Well-Built—A Prayer for the Crown-Shy may well ask the hard questions, but shies away from presenting much of an answer to them. While this may not sound terrible (and, it really isn’t at that), as someone who very much still struggles with these big, life-defining questions, it’d be nice to find a book that provides some answers (without trying to convert me to a new religion).

#3

A Mirror Mended – by Alix E. Harrow

ReviewGoodreads

Zinnia Grey has a problem. For someone who lives their life in grey-areas, in-between reality and fable, and in a constant state of will-I won’t-I succumb to my horrible deadly disease—having a problem isn’t ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. Usually. But when she goes on a princess-rescuing bender, Zinnia finds out an important lesson in just whom to rescue. And who really needs saving.

#2

To Blackfyre Keep – by Anthony Ryan

ReviewGoodreads

Cursed I am, but it was always a useful curse.

For something that does little more than continuing the overarching narrative, this addition to the Seven Swords was surprisingly good. Perhaps because that’s how it was advertised: another adventure, another sword, another step on Guyime’s quest to unite the demon blades. And so while this did very little beyond it’s brief, it certainly fulfilled it—and did so in a imaginative and immersive way! As such, Book #4 of the Seven Swords takes #2 on my list, just short of the inevitable Tchaikovsky novella.

#1

Ogres – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

ReviewGoodreads

“My fellows are really not happy with you, Torquell.”

It’s such an understatement that you blink. “Good?” you try.

In what I’m beginning to believe may be his preferred format for relation, we have another year-winning novella from one Adrian Tchaikovsky. While I may be hit-and-miss on his full-length stuff, his shorter fiction has proven good, surprisingly good for something that’s often overlooked due to its short stature. This year’s entry, Ogres, details a somewhat feudal, somewhat post-apocalyptic world ruled by ogres—humanity’s bigger, stronger, smarter, more vicious cousins. And Torquell’s ability to turn this world order on its head.

And this sums up the Top 5! Did you read any of these—and if so, what’d you think? Any I missed out on, or ranked waaaay higher than I should’ve? Stay tuned for my full-length novels of 2022 and yesteryear lists, coming soon!

Most Anticipated Books of Q1 2023

There are A LOT of books out this spring! Now I’m not going to be reading all of these on release, probably not even this year (maybe not even ever)—and my production will likely be down next year—but I’ll try to get through at least a few of them. I’m shooting for… maybe three in January, three more in February, and two or three in March—but we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure there’ll be additional releases and news to follow, but for now, let’s see if we can get rid of 2022 okay and start 2023 off right!

January

The Tress of the Emerald Sea – by Brandon Sanderson (N/A) – Secret Project, Book #1

The Sapphire Altar – by David Dalglish (January 10th) – Book #2 of the Vagrant Gods

Saint – by Adrienne Young (UK Release) (January 10th) – Fable, Book #0.5

Godkiller – by Hannah Kaner (UK Release) (January 19th)

Episode Thirteen – by Craig DiLouie (January 24th)

February

The Sanctuary – by Katrine Engberg (February 7th) – Kørner & Werner, Book #5

Wild Massive – by Scotto Moore (February 7th)

The Last Grudge – by Max Seeck (February 7th) – Book #3 of Jessica Niemi

Frontier – by Grace Curtis (February 14th)

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride – by Roshani Chokshi (February 14th)

The Shadow Casket – by Chris Wooding (February 16th) – The Darkwater Legacy, Book #2

Murder at Haven’s Rock – by Kelley Armstrong (February 21st) – Haven’s Rock, Book #1

Emperor of Ruin – by Django Wexler (February 28th) – Silvereye & Burningblade, Book #3

March

Send a Ranger – by Tom Habecker (March 1st)

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi – by S.A. Chakraborty (March 2nd)

The Sea Rises – by A.J. Smith (March 8th) (UK Release) – Form & Void, Book #3

Antimatter Blues – by Edward Ashton (March 14th) – a Mickey7 novel

The Lies of the Ajungo – by Moses One Utomi (March 21st) – Book #1 of the Forever Desert

A House with Good Bones – by T. Kingfisher (March 28th)

And Put Away Childish Things – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (March 28th)

Infinity Gate – by M.R. Carey (March 28th)

Ketchup Month 2022

Well, it’s December.

Sigh.

My expectations for Ketchup Month this year are not high. In fact, I’ve had a hard time lately focusing on anything. Think I finished four books in November: an audiobook it took me over a month to get through, one reread, a novella, and an actual novel (which again took me well over a month to finish). Additionally, I published three reviews (one of which was a DNF). As such, while I had some grand scheme in mind for this year, I’m not sure just how much of it will come to fruition.

I suppose we’ll see.

ARC

The Light Pirate – by Lily Brooks-Dalton (12/06)

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Florida is slipping away. As devastating weather patterns and rising sea levels gradually wreak havoc on the state’s infrastructure, a powerful hurricane approaches a small town on the southeastern coast. Kirby Lowe, an electrical line worker; his pregnant wife, Frida; and their two sons, Flip and Lucas, prepare for the worst. When the boys go missing just before the hurricane hits, Kirby heads out into the high winds to search for them. Left alone, Frida goes into premature labor and gives birth to an unusual child, Wanda, whom she names after the catastrophic storm that ushers her into a society closer to collapse than ever before.

As Florida continues to unravel, Wanda grows. Moving from childhood to adulthood, adapting not only to the changing landscape, but also to the people who stayed behind in a place abandoned by civilization, Wanda loses family, gains community, and ultimately, seeks adventure, love, and purpose in a place remade by nature.

Told in four parts—power, water, light, and time—The Light Pirate mirrors the rhythms of the elements and the sometimes quick, sometimes slow dissolution of the world as we know it. It is a meditation on the changes we would rather not see, the future we would rather not greet, and a call back to the beauty and violence of an untamable wilderness.

City of Last Chances – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (12/08)

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There has always been a darkness to Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse.


What will be the spark that lights the conflagration?


Despite the city’s refugees, wanderers, murderers, madmen, fanatics and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores.

Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.

Ilmar,
City of Long Shadows.
City of Bad Decisions.
City of Last Chances.

Just the two ARCs this month, both of them out this first week. Haven’t cracked either of them yet, but hopefully I’ll get to one before the start of 2023.

Missed 2022 ARCs

Locklands – by Robert Jackson Bennett (6/21)

The Founders #3

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A god wages war—using all of humanity as its pawns—in the unforgettable conclusion to the Founders trilogy.

Sancia, Clef, and Berenice have gone up against plenty of long odds in the past. But the war they’re fighting now is one even they can’t win.

This time, they’re not facing robber-baron elites, or even an immortal hierophant, but an entity whose intelligence is spread over half the globe—a ghost in the machine that uses the magic of scriving to possess and control not just objects, but human minds.

To fight it, they’ve used scriving technology to transform themselves and their allies into an army—a society—that’s like nothing humanity has seen before. With its strength at their backs, they’ve freed a handful of their enemy’s hosts from servitude, even brought down some of its fearsome, reality-altering dreadnaughts. Yet despite their efforts, their enemy marches on—implacable. Unstoppable.

Now, as their opponent closes in on its true prize—an ancient doorway, long buried, that leads to the chambers at the center of creation itself—Sancia and her friends glimpse a chance at reaching it first, and with it, a last desperate opportunity to stop this unbeatable foe. But to do so, they’ll have to unlock the centuries-old mystery of scriving’s origins, embark on a desperate mission into the heart of their enemy’s power, and pull off the most daring heist they’ve ever attempted.

And as if that weren’t enough, their adversary might just have a spy in their ranks—and a last trick up its sleeve.

Eversion – by Alastair Reynolds (8/02)

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A dark, mind-bending SF adventure spread across time and space, Doctor Silas Coade has been tasked with keeping his crew safe as they adventure across the galaxy in search of a mysterious artifact, but as things keep going wrong, Silas soon realizes that something more sinister is at work, and this may not even be the first time it’s happened.

In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it’s up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again.

Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence – by Rebecca F. Kuang (8/23)

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1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?

Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.

From My TBR

Black Heart, Part III: The Sacrificial Altar

Artesia #2 / Black Heart #3

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As this is the third part of the story around Black Heart, I’ll just give you the blurb from Part #1. So far, I’ve quite enjoyed the story and can’t wait to finish it out!

The last survivors of the raid on the Barrow of Azharad have scattered to the four winds, each walking a separate path. For some, it is the path of noble service, as the households of great kings and warlords beckon, offering a chance to enter the fray of politics with the fate of nations on the line. For others, it is the path of secrets and magic, as the veil of the world parts to reveal the hidden truths that dwell in shadow and spirit.

And for Stjepan Black-Heart, royal cartographer and suspected murderer, it is the path of battle and sacrifice, as he is summoned to attend the household of the Grand Duke Owen Lis Red, the Earl Marshal to the High King of the Middle Kingdoms, on his latest campaign to find and kill Porloss, the Rebel Earl: an elusive quarry lurking behind an army of ruthless renegade knights in the wild hills of the Manon Mole, a land where every step could be your last, and where lie secrets best left undisturbed.

The Winter Road – by Adrian Selby

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The greatest empire of them all began with a road.

The Circle – a thousand miles of perilous forests and warring clans. No one has ever tamed such treacherous territory before, but ex-soldier Teyr Amondsen, veteran of a hundred battles, is determined to try.

With a merchant caravan protected by a crew of skilled mercenaries, Amondsen embarks on a dangerous mission to forge a road across the untamed wilderness that was once her home. But a warlord rises in the wilds of the Circle, uniting its clans and terrorising its people. Teyr’s battles may not be over yet . . .

All roads lead back to war.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn – by Tyler Whitesides

Kingdom of Grit #1

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Think I’ll ever actually get to any of these? I’ve been talking about Ardor Benn for at least a solid year at this point, but am no closer to reading it. Maybe now’s the time.

“I’m hiring you to steal the king’s crown.”

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory -Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

2nd Chance ARCs

Have you seen some of the shit that I’ve been DNFing this year? Seriously, it’s insane. The sheer amount of my most anticipated books for this year, several that I KNOW must be good, that I SWEAR are good—and I can’t get through them for one reason or another. Thus, here are a few that I burned out on (not because I hated them, but just because THIS YEAR), that I’d like to take a second shot at—one of them while 2022 is still at present. The others will have to wait.

In other news, I’m still planning a “The Best Books I DNFed, 2022 Edition” for later in the month.

In the Shadow of Lightning – by Brian McClellan (6/21)

Glass Immortals #1

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I’m not going to lie, there’s a 90% chance the book I choose will be this one. The reason I burned out on it was that I got it as an audiobook and didn’t quite love the reader. But now I have it in physical form, well…

Demir Grappo is an outcast—he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed: the very power that keeps civilization turning, godglass, is running out.

Now, Demir must find allies, old friends and rivals alike, confront the powerful guild-families who are only interested in making the most of the scraps left at the table and uncover the invisible hand that threatens the Empire. A war is coming, a war unlike any other. And Demir and his ragtag group of outcasts are the only thing that stands in the way of the end of life as the world knows it.

The Hunger of the Gods – by John Gwynne (4/14)

Bloodsworn Saga #2

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

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

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

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

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

Empire of Exiles – by Erin M. Evans (11/08)

Books of the Usurper #1

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Twenty-seven years ago, a Duke with a grudge led a ruthless coup against the empire of Semilla, killing thousands. He failed. The Duke was executed, a terrifyingly powerful sorcerer was imprisoned, and an unwilling princess disappeared. 

The empire moved on. 

Now, when Quill, an apprentice scribe, arrives in the capital city, he believes he’s on a simple errand for another pompous noble: fetch ancient artifacts from the magical Imperial Archives. He’s always found his apprenticeship to a lawman to be dull work. But these aren’t just any artifacts — these are the instruments of revolution, the banners under which the Duke lead his coup. 

Just as the artifacts are unearthed, the city is shaken by a brutal murder that seems to have been caused by a weapon not seen since the days of rebellion. With Quill being the main witness to the murder, and no one in power believing his story, he must join the Archivists — a young mage, a seasoned archivist, and a disillusioned detective — to solve the truth of the attack. And what they uncover will be the key to saving the empire – or destroying it again.

Age of Ash – by Daniel Abraham (2/15)

Kithamar #1

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This one, more than any of the others, is a gamble. Because I did find Age of Ash a bit of a snooze. But I remember being intrigued by the story and—unlike Dead Silence—didn’t find the protagonist completely unrealistic. Not likely to try this one in 2022, but it’s possible, I suppose.

Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold. This is Alys’s.

When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.

Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.

Advance ARCs

The Shadow Casket – by Chris Wooding (2/16/23)

Darkwater Legacy #2

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The follow-up to my Book of 2018, I CANNOT WAIT to get into this one!! And at 852 pages, I’m sure to need a decent start on it…

A BAND OF REBELS.
A TRAITOR IN THEIR MIDST.
A REVOLUTION ABOUT TO BEGIN.

It’s been three years since Aren seized the Ember Blade. Three years since they struck the spark they hoped would ignite the revolution. But the flame has failed to catch. The Krodans have crushed Ossia in an iron grip of terror. The revolution seems further away than ever.

Far in the north, the Dawnwardens seek to unite the fractious clans of the Fell Folk and create a stronghold from which to retake their land. But even if they can overcome the danger of treachery from within, they still have to contend with the dreadknights. Only the druidess Vika can resist these near-unstoppable foes, and there’s only one of her.

But what if there was a weapon that could destroy the dreadknights? A weapon of such power it could turn the tide? A weapon that, if it fell into the wrong hands, might mean the end of all hope?

The Shadow Casket has returned from out of the past, and it will save or damn them all.

Episode Thirteen – by Craig DiLouie (1/24/23)

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I was actually planning to start this at the beginning of the month, but it’s taken me longer than I’d figured to finish All of Our Demise. Granted, I also had halfassed plans of reading this in October, so wtf knows.

Fade to Black is the newest hit ghost hunting reality TV show. It’s led by husband and wife team Matt and Claire Kirklin and features a dedicated crew of ghost-hunting experts.
 
Episode Thirteen takes them to Matt’s holy grail: the Paranormal Research Foundation. This crumbling, derelict mansion holds secrets and clues about the bizarre experiments that took place there in the 1970s. It’s also, undoubtably, haunted, and Matt hopes to use their scientific techniques and high tech gear to prove it. 

But, as the house begins to slowly reveal itself to them, proof of an afterlife might not be everything Matt dreamed of. 
  
A story told in broken pieces, in tapes, journals, correspondence, and research files, this is the story of Episode Thirteen — and how everything went horribly wrong. 

The Sanctuary – by Katrine Engberg (2/07/23)

Kørner & Werner #4

Goodreads • StoryGraph

Jeppe Kørner, on leave from the police force and nursing a broken heart, has taken refuge on the island of Bornholm for the winter. Also on the island is Esther de Laurenti, a writer working on a biography on a female anthropologist with a mysterious past and coming to terms with her own crushing sense of loneliness in the wake of a dear friend’s death. When Jeppe lends a helping hand at the island’s local sawmill, he begins to realize that the island may not be the peaceful refuge it appears to be.

Back in Copenhagen, Anette Werner is tasked with leading the investigation into a severed corpse discovered on a downtown playground. As she follows the strange trail of clues, they all seem to lead back to Bornholm. With an innocent offer to check out a lead, Jeppe unwittingly finds himself in the crosshairs of a sinister mystery rooted in the past, forcing him to team up with Anette and Esther to unravel the island’s secrets before it’s too late.

Antimatter Blues – by Edward Ashton (3/14/23)

Mickey7 #2

Goodreads • StoryGraph

Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive—that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life.

It’s not going to last.

It may be sunny now, but winter is coming. The antimatter that fuels the colony is running low, and Marshall wants his bomb back. If Mickey agrees to retrieve it, he’ll be giving up the only thing that’s kept his head off of the chopping block. If he refuses, he might doom the entire colony. Meanwhile, the creepers have their own worries, and they’re not going to surrender the bomb without getting something in return. Once again, Mickey finds the fate of two species resting in his hands. If something goes wrong this time, though, he won’t be coming back.

Life

Life: it’s that thing that keeps going and going, even if you get sick and need to get off. And lately it’s been a bit rude.

Sigh.

My headspace has been rather poor lately, which has made it really hard to focus on anything. Sufficient to say you’ll probably hear less from me until it settles.

I’m feeling increasingly despondent about my job; I like it well enough, but my hours and shifts have been cut again, which has put me in a few niche positions that I can’t exactly advance from. In short, it’s no longer the career that I’d hoped it might become. And even if it was… I’m no longer the person that might accept it. Something has to change. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what it is I want, so it’ll take some time and some patience—two things that are typically my strong suits, yet at the moment… I’m not finding them easy. I’ve been trying to figure out what I want since I lost my archaeology gig five years back.

I’m just getting tired of waiting. Searching. Coming up empty.

Geez that was depressing—sorry bout that. Been in and out of it more and more lately. I really need a change. We’ll just have to wait and see what that is exactly.

Dunno what the future holds for me exactly, but I know I’m going to have to explore a bit more before I find my place in it.

Note: Can you tell I was in two rather different moods when I wrote and edited this? I stopped reading it after a bit, as I figured that if I kept on, I’d just end up rewriting everything.

So, how’s your year been? Or your November? Any radical plans for December? Any ideas for what I want to do with my life? I’d love to hear.

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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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)

Standalone

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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)

Standalone

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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)

Standalone

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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)

Standalone

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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

GoodreadsStoryGraph

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!!!