TBR – June 2020

My ability to read and/or finish a book (ANY book) has been all over the map lately. This, combined with the release schedule for books in July—including titles I haven’t gotten to like Peace Talks, When Jackals Storm the Walls, and Every Sky a Grave—and current ARCs that are already overdue for reviews—like Shorefall, Highfire, or the Kingdom of Liars—means that I’ve no clue what I’ll been reading moving forward. Even like, into next week. Therefore, I’m just going to list a few books that I have and I most feel like reading as of right now.

Currently Reading

• The Tattered Banner – by Duncan M. Hamilton

Progress on the Tattered Banner has stalled, as I find my attention wandering yet again. The story, following Soren on his life as a waif-turned-academy swordsman, has been a bit dry up to this point, and a little detached and impersonal. I’m about 1/3 through, where he leaves school for a bit to go adventuring, and where I hope the story will pick up. But we shall see.

So, first of all, I realize Blood of Empire isn’t on here. And I don’t know what to tell you. I just haven’t been able to get past Chapter 3. And it’s not because the writing is bad, or the story is bad, or… anything else that I can think of. I think I’m anticipating it too much. And I want it to be perfect. And that pressure plus the added pressure I’m feeling from the world right now is proving too much for me. Or whatever.

Where Gods Fear to Go chronicles the continuing adventures of Finnbogi and his companions across pseudo-America toward the Meadows. Though it hasn’t been perfect, this quest has been immensely entertaining, with the final leg of the journey involving peril, pitfalls, and telekinetic sasquatches.

Crownbreaker wraps up the adventures of Kellen, the wandering Jan’Tep turned Argosi spellslinger, who has recently found a home advising a Daroman queen. Though Kellen’s life has already been fraught with challenge, this final entry in the series promises to up the ante, with the outcast returning home to deal with his father, his sister, and the upstart and power-hungry empire he thought he’d left behind for good. I’ve absolutely no idea which direction this is going to go and I can’t sell it enough. That said, I am a bit disappointed as I’ve enjoyed this series so much. The end—whatever it brings—is sure to be bittersweet.

Remember back in January when I wrote the review for Herald of the Storm and wanted desperately to return to the world of Steelhaven? That seems so loooong ago now. I mean… a long, long while. And I still haven’t read this. I recently (like, in March) discovered that River is absent from the Shattered Crown, which soured me a bit on it, but I still do need to make it back. It’s only book #2, after all.

The House of Shattered Wings is a murder mystery set in Paris, featuring the fallout of a heavenly war and its both immortal and mortal survivors. I’d misplaced this for a while but—despite not receiving the greatest reviews—still would like to read it. Why not now, when this corner of the world is currently going to pieces? Perfect time, seems.

Age of Empyre represents the latest MJS series to conclude and, while I was certainly not enamored with the first three books, it’s been night-and-day with the previous two. Since both #4 & #5 have ended in cliffhangers, I assume that Empyre will represent a suitably epic conclusion—one that I cannot wait to experience for myself.

I’ve been waiting on After Atlas for when I’m also working on a fantasy adventure, so the two might balance one another out, but as I’ve been playing the Last of Us in my spare time (I’m working on a final run of the first one before I start part deus) I haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I shall. Probably soon. Ish.

I’ve finished one (ONE) physical, like, made-of-paper book since April 7th. Considering I usually have a rotation of three going (one physical, one audio, one ebook) at one time, this has cut into my reading somewhat. Furthermore, considering that most of my TBR titles are physical books, this has somewhat impeded my progress on my list for the year. But… well, what can you do? So we journey onward.

TBR Read Since April

Since I did something different in May, this represents the TBR I finished in the last two months. Four titles—not bad. But only one off my 2020 list, which we are at 6/18 through, which… ain’t too shabby, tbh. I figured 10 would be a good number to shoot for for the year, and halfway through the year (yes, the year’s only halfway done) I’m already over half done (but only 1/3 to ticking them all off).

Read any of these? Any I need to add/skip? Anything else happening? I know this month’s TBR is a bit late, but I was mostly busy not reading things on it lately.

(Also, adding that last group of 4 images took 6 tries, which is ridiculous, since they were already in my library)

Most Anticipated Books of the 2nd Half of 2020

July

07.07Every Sky a Grave – by Jay Posey (Ascendance #1)

A planetary assassin that wields the Language of the Universe meets a new power that uses the same Language in ways previously believed impossible.

07.14Peace Talks – by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #16)

An accord between wizards and vampires gets real when Harry Dresden shows up. But can he keep the peace, or will his presence lead the sides back to the brink of war?

07.14When Jackals Storm the Walls – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Shattered Sands #5)

The Kings no longer rule Sharakai. But with the city on the brink of destruction, will Çeda set aside her differences with the former tyrants in order to save the city, or will the Shangazi finally claim Sharakai for its own?

07.21Ashes of the Sun – by Django Wexler (Burningblade & Silvereye #1)

Two siblings on very different sides. With a civil war looming, they will learn that though little is as strong as the bonds of blood, sometimes not even kinship is enough.

07.28Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz

When a cybernetically enhanced supersoldier frees an experimental assassin from beneath a shadow-organization’s thumb, what he learns about the world will surprise him. But the real shock is the chemistry between the two, and where it leads.

August

08.04The Black Song – by Anthony Ryan (Raven’s Blade #2)

The Blood Song has returned to Vaelin Al Sorna, but at what cost? This new song calls for blood above all else, and the more the better. But with a battle against a demigod looming, it might be all that keeps him alive long enough to regret it.

08.14Driftwood – by Marie Brennan

It’s the wake for Last, a legend to those that didn’t know the man behind the stories. But as more stories come out, not even those that thought they knew the legend are sure what to think. For who or what was Last, and is he really gone?

September

09.14The Trouble With Peace – by Joe Abercrombie (Age of Madness #2)

The old ways are breaking, and it’s up to the new generation to see them through this time. Unfortunately, the old generation still has center stage. And they must navigate the turbid waters of rebellion, discontent, betrayal and blood in order to seize the day, or lose it.

09.29The Constant Rabbit – by Jasper Fforde

Anthropomorphized rabbits overrun Britain, garnering hate on all sides. When the Rabbit comes to Peter Knox’s small town, he’s forced to choose a side; what he believes to be true, versus what maintains the peaceful life that he’s built for himself.

09.29Battle Ground – by Jim Butcher (Dresden Files #17)

The Last Titan is descending on Chicago, and she’s bringing an army. Harry Dresden’s mission is simple: kill the unkillable, save the world. But the thing about unkillable things are that they’re really, really hard to kill. And the attempt will cost the world a price beyond imagination.

November

11.07The Rhythm of War – by Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archive #4)

The reformed Knights Radiant have spent the last year in a stalemate with the enemy. But though a new technology may tip the balance in their favor, they may just threaten everything the Radiants stand for.

11.24Forged – by Benedict Jacka (Alex Verus #11)

Hunted and mistrusted for years, Alex Verus has finally embraced his darker side. With Levistus in his sights and Anne willing to let the world burn around them, Alex must make another choice—between the woman he loves and the fate of the world.

December

12.08Memoria – by Kristyn Merbeth (Nova Vita Protocl #2)

The Kaisers aren’t adapting to their new life on-planet well. Scorpia is pushing to return to space, while Corvus is rooted in his soldiering past. But with the fate of the Nova Vita at stake, each must do their part to discover the mystery behind the war, or be forced to repeat it.

Of these, I’m probably most anticipating… oooh tough call! I’m leaning towards Ashes of the Sun and Forged, but it’s really hard to go against Peace Talks or the Rhythm of War. My favorite cover is on Memoria, though the US cover of RoW isn’t out yet, so I’m not 100%. Both her Nova Vita books have been neon wet-dreams though- I LOVE them! Any of these on anyone else’s list too? Did I miss any? I’m sure I did! Which cover do you like the best? Let me know what you think!

Music Monday – Fav American Local Bands

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

I believe there’s already a term coined for this, but I don’t know it. So let me explain real quick: first off, these are American bands. They mostly release singles and EPs, though occasionally spring for full-length albums. They play shows, and even tour, but only within a certain radius or area of the country, usually the one they live in. None of them are located up where I am, but that’s not unusual. Not a whole lot of non-country, non-bluegrass, non-folk bands are. I listen to a fair amount of music from bands like this, which is much easier than it used to be thanks to sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, or even Amazon. And while I do love Spotify, if I really like a song by one of these little-known bands, I usually try to buy it. Below are a few examples of my favorite local bands from around America.

Æther Realm (Asheville, North Carolina) – Folk Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Viking Metal

Cold Kingdom (Minneapolis, Minnesota) – Rock, Hard Rock

Daybreak Embrace (Miami, Florida) – Alternative Metal, Fusion Metal, Rock

I-Exist (Indianapolis, Indiana) – Electronic Rock, Inspiration Metal, Post-EDM

Fivefold (St. Louis, Missouri) – Heavy Rock, Alternative Rock

I know these are mostly hard rock and metal, so I’ll try to incorporate something else next time. What d’you think—folk or hip hop? Or maybe punk or pop? Bluegrass? Ummmm…

Book Loot – June Edition

So, June was a fun month, eh? I know, I know—and it isn’t even over yet. With my illness and the lack of work, and the lack of new jobs (especially those who want to hire people with COVIDish symptoms), I think I drove maybe twice this month. Both times to go to the doctor. So… fun! Well, there’re plenty of amazing books to look forward to this summer, many of them in July. Here are but the few I’ve been granted access to:

ARCs for July

The Constant Rabbit – by Jasper Fforde (7/02 – UK • 9/29 US)

The Constant Rabbit is a Jasper Fforde book, which means it’s probably gonna be weird (update: it sure is!). 50 years before the start of the novel—in an event known only as “The Event”—18 rabbits were anthropomorphized. Since then, their numbers have exploded in the UK alone, and the relations between the two have gotten strained to a tipping point. For though the Rabbit has proven to be a patient, peaceful people—will it continue?

Pretty good so far, btw! I enjoyed my last Fforde (Early Riser) novel right up until the end, and hopefully the Constant Rabbit will be no different. Or better—hopefully it’ll be even better!

Every Sky a Grave – by Jay Posey (7/07)

A brand new space opera from the creator of the Duskwalker saga, Every Sky a Grave centers around the planetary assassin Elyth. Privy to the mysterious Language of the Universe, she and her order have the means to doom and destroy worlds with but a few words and a touch. But when a new power emerges using the Language in previously unheard-of ways, Elyth and her order are in for the fight of their lives. Because no one likes competition.

Red Noise – by John P. Murphy (7/14)

All the Miner wanted was to offload her haul, load up on supplies, and return to her claim in peace. But after stopping in at Station 35, she becomes embroiled in a turf war between two rival gangs and the corrupt head of security. With no supplies, no coin, and no other options, the Miner decides to join up and make some quick and easy blood money. But why pick just one side when she can play them all?

I’d heard some disagreement among reviewers who got to this before I did, but personally I quite liked it! The story reminds me of anime with a western vibe and provides enough action and stealth that I couldn’t help but fall in. Review should be up on Tuesday!

When Jackals Storm the Walls – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (7/14 US • 7/23 UK)

The penultimate Shattered Sands features a Shangazi much changed. The rule of the Kings in Sharakai has ended—blood mage Queen Meryam now rules the city in their stead. Out in the desert, tensions have finally boiled over. Relationships have crumbled and hate grown in their place. How Emre, Davud, Brama and Ihsan handle these is sure to shape the world, should each survive long enough to see it through. Elsewhere, Nalamae has been killed by her siblings, prompting her cycle of rebirth to renew itself. Though Çeda scours the desert for the goddess, her search will eventually lead her to Sharakai where she is faced with an impossible choice: will she join forces with the treacherous Kings, or risk the city’s destruction? Whatever she decides is sure to have consequences, and ooooh I can’t wait to read this one!

Ashes of the Sun – by Django Wexler (7/21)

Long ago, a war leveled an empire. A new one regrew in its place, but old tensions still simmer. And now a new war looms. Gyre hunts for a legendary artifact that may yet save his people, with the power to destroy the Twilight Order. But while searching the mysterious ruins he comes upon something unexpected. His sister. The same sister his parents sold a decade past to the Order. But she is not the kin he remembers, and nothing—not even blood—will stop the two from rending the world in twain.

Automatic Reload – by Ferrett Steinmetz (7/28)

A rollicking cyberpunk thriller about two supersoldiers with panic disorders, PTSD, and crippling anxiety. When Mat takes a job transporting cargo for the mysterious IAC, he inadvertently discovers the cargo isn’t a package at all. It’s a woman. Sylvia has been transformed almost beyond recognition. Augmented with radically experimental hardware, she’s been transformed (against her will) into the pinnacle of stealth assassins. And she can’t handle it. When Mat decides to free her, the two become the poster children of Enemy of the State, and there’s no Gene Hackman around to help them out. If they want to live long enough to rescue Sylvia’s family from the IAC, they have to learn to work together. But the chemistry that follows may catch them both off-guard.

Review to come on this one too, but I personally LOVED IT. So, start anticipating it now, yeah?

Purchases

I backed Benedict Patrick’s Kickstarter, and got the promise of some loot in the future, but nothing right now. Bit of a gamble for me, to be honest. If you’re interested, check it out. If not, don’t.

A late addition here was the only book I bought this month. And I didn’t expect it so quickly! I could post a blurb, but the picture’s really worth the most words here.

As I have not been granted (yet, at least) Peace Talks, you can go ahead and anticipate that next month. Because I am totally buying that book. But first, some Murderbot.

Gifts & Freebies

Minor Mage – by T. Kingfisher

A birthday present from my sister, regarding Oliver—a very minor mage. Armed with an armadillo familiar, three spells (one to control his allergies to armadillos), and little enough magic to place himself firmly on Rincewind’s level, he’s pretty much worthless as a mage. Unfortunately, he’s all there is.

And They Were Never Heard From Again – by Benedict Patrick

An intro faerie tale to Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series, this free novella features a forest full of monsters, a town whose citizens lock themselves in the cellar at night, and two brothers caught far from home when the sun goes down.

I’ve actually reviewed this—here—already. An entertaining, if ultimately disappointing read. The world, however, drank me in so much that I can’t wait to return to it! September can’t come fast enough!

Games

The Long Dark (PS4)

The most recent update kept crashing my computer, so I was forced to make a choice. Did I buy the console version, or—I bought the console version. Bummed that I had to pay for the damned thing twice, but Hinterland’s really made a good survival game here, and I suppose I’m happy enough to support them. Still rankles a bit, though. Like half the gaming world, I eagerly await the Last of Us II, so I’m sure a replay of #1 will warrant itself in the near future.

Afterword

I’m slowly getting better from the respiratory infection that’s been plaguing me for months. It’s going to be a long, hard way back, especially with all the muscle I’ve dropped in the past 6 months, and especially with backpacking season looming. All my friends have pulled out of the would-be trip this year, so I’m planning on Lone Wolfing it. Which is equal parts invigorating and terrifying. Luckily, there’s a trail I’ve always wanted to pack about half an hour away, and I’ve never seen anyone on it. It’s a bit long (like, 12 miles in) though, so we’ll see how it goes. I just need to feel better, and it needs to stop snowing, eh (snowed on Monday, fyi). But first, there’s a wedding or two, a lot to read, and an illness to conquer. I hope y’all are having a… as good a year as can be expected! Anticipating these or any other books in July? Anything else on your reading list for the month? Anything I need to check out? Any exciting summer plans? Let me know, please. Otherwise—stay safe and be well!

I’ve been watching ‘Hate Thy Neighbor’ and… people are lovely. Just… really. Racism, sexism, and bigotry abound, and can be based on upbringing, environment, society, even losing out on a job, and so much more. In my opinion, people are allowed to believe what they want, as well as to express their own opinions. That said… there’s no need to just spew hate around. Oh, and that even though you might think the COVID threat has ended, it’s not something you can just wish away. So please try to keep socially distant, wear a mask, be careful, and don’t be a dick. Seriously, don’t be a dick.

Fantasy Bucket List Book Tag

My second tag stolen from Re-Enchantment of the World, originally originating from The Little Book Owl. This one I actually got first, but had such a hard time coming up with one of them (that I STILL haven’t managed), that it got pushed back to the end of May.

Also, since most of these I could’ve fulfilled entirely in Middle-Earth, I decided to omit it from contention. I’ve seen one already entirely of Middle-Earth from Maddalena, so you can check that one out if you’re missing some nostalgia.

A Fictional World You’d Like to Tour

Roshar, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Roshar, rendered beautifully by

This one obviously would be Middle-Earth (or New Zealand, because that’s pretty much as good as I’d ever get AND because I’ve heard it’s just incredible there), but since that’s off the table (at least, for this post), I’m going with Roshar.

Of you lot that don’t read Brandon Sanderson, this is his world from the Stormlight Archive. A vast and sprawling continent full of lush, varied environments and locales, and unique and interesting creatures. A continent of magic and mystery, gods and demons. I’ve read Way of Kings three times (pretty good for a 1200 page book) and would always be ready to read it again. The world is just so amazing and richly rendered and… yeah. There were a lot of finalists, but this won by a decent margin.

A Specific Place You’d Like to Visit

The Eye of the World, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

A place of green and growth, tended by the Green Man, an ancient thing made of forest itself. The place moves around the Blight, a land of desolation and decay, never in the same place twice. At the heart of a spring forest rests the Eye, surrounded by a quiet, soothing place, full of butterflies and flowers. Through a simple arch lays a “smooth floor, slick to the eye like oiled slate… seamless, white walls glittered with uncounted flecks in untold colors, giving a low, soft light even after the sunlit archway vanished [from view]. The corridor opens into a vast, domed space, the rough, living rock of its ceiling dotted with clumps of glowing crystals. Below it, a pool took up the entire cavern, except for the walkway around it, perhaps five paces wide. In the oval shape of an eye, the pool was lined about its rim with a low flat edging of crystals that glowed with a duller, yet fiercer, light than those above. Its surface was as smooth as glass and as clear as the Winespring Water. Rand felt as if his eyes could penetrate it forever, but he could not see any bottom to it.” A place filled with saidan, the male half of the One Power. The description is surreal, and one of my favorite moments in possibly my favorite ever book. There’s a reason that despite his tendency to meander, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Robert Jordan’s writing.

A Character You Would Like to Meet

Kvothe, Kingkiller Chronicles by Pat Rothfuss

The man that has done everything and knows everything. Plus, he owns his own bar, so I assume there’d be free drinks. Plus he’d fill me in on the events in the third, as-yet-to-be-published book. Among other adventures and stuff. And cider hopefully, plenty of cider.

An Event to Witness

I had a tie here. SO, (1) the edge of the rim of Discworld, as seen at the end of the Colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett, or (2) the Moontears blooming, as seen in The Dreamblood Duology, by N.K Jemisin. Of course, with the Rimfall on Discworld, seeing it also means probably almost dying, so… The Moontears only bloom under the light of the Dreaming Moon, and I feel that would be amazing to witness, like the baobab trees kinda.

An Activity/Sport to Try

Song of the Shattered Sands, by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Sand-boarding, or sand-skiff racing. Like from Avatar: tLA. Just cruising around on an endless sea of sand, like you’re surfing on water, but without all that nasty drowning.

A Weapon to Wield

The Sword of Sorrows, The Empire of Storms by Jon Skovron

Hope’s weapon, from the island trilogy. I almost picked her as the person I’d most like to meet. When pulled from its sheath, the sword hums softly. Whenever it’s moved, it hums more. Said to remember every life it has ever taken, and the sound it makes is the loss it feels at every death.

Creepy, yeah? I almost picked another incredibly creepy one, but replaced it. This one I had to leave in.

An Item to Use

Jungissa, The Dreamblood Duology by N.K. Jemisin

This is tanzanite, btw. Cool, innit?

The Jungissa is a special stone that is used to induce and control sleep. Now, while it’d be cool (and definitely not weird and creepy) to control other people’s sleep and dreams—I’ve always been a problem sleeper. I’m one of those people who has an active, wandering mind, thus I have the attention span of a rabbit and it takes me 30-45 minutes to fall asleep after going to bed. In the third grade (and again in highschool) we had an assignment to tell the class what we’d do if we could only do one thing for the rest of our lives, and if we had an extra hour in the day, respectively. I picked sleep. I’ve always loved my sleep, and never gotten enough of it. And lately, I’ve been extra tired—all the time. This stone would be AMAZING.

Okay, so I almost picked the Jade Eye, from R.S. Blecher’s Golgotha, which allows the wielder to see the dead and talk to them for a brief moment. That… seemed a bit much. I’m not actually a huge fan of horror. Mostly I just find it boring.

What My Favorite Characters Would Be Doing in Quarantine (Book Tag)

I was recently tagged by Ola & Piotrek over at the Re-Enchantment of the World to “take 5+ of your favorite characters and imagine what they’d be doing if they were stuck here like us”. The tag, created by Kal at Reader Voracious, and looks interesting enough for me to do, especially considering I haven’t actually finished any books in a while. But that’s all about to change! Just not now.

Three from Jay Posey’s Legend of the Duskwalker

Would be sitting around drinking, waiting for someone to shoot. The mailman, the neighbor from downstairs, the girl he spurned in sixth grade—wouldn’t matter much. Whomsoever broke social distancing. There’d be no internet, calls, or TV on his watch, just drinking and cleaning his guns. Plus maybe a siesta. And he wouldn’t be handling the waiting well.

James Holden from S.A. Corey’s The Expanse

Would’ve announced the cause of the pandemic and whose fault it was to the entire world, then immediately pissed off somewhere and left the world to deal with it however.

Xavier Rodriguez from Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s Hell Divers

&

Artyom from Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro

Would have thrown on their radiation suits and gone out to search for supplies. Some people might give them strange looks, but their rifles would probably’ve prevented those people from doing anything about it (though I’ve seen a not-insignificant number of people take their rifles on a walk to the store during this crisis, and for the most part the rest of us just ignore them). They’d also keep a watchful eye out for any mutants or atomic bombs lying around.

Rincewind from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

Would be in the library fiddling with his Wizzard hat and feeding bananas to the Librarian, who would be incredibly offended but probably willing to humor his friend.

Çeda from Bradley Beaulieu’s Shattered Sands

Would be sneaking out at night and taking drugs. Then roam the desert and fight some trees as her way of social distancing while totally not being high.

Alex Verus from his series written by Benedict Jacka

Would be looking through the futures in which he went out to the store and trying to determine the paths to walk in order to avoid touching anyone. After that he’d probably just make Luna do his shopping for him.

Hope from Jon Skovron’s Empire of Storms

Would be fully engaged in sword practice and combat training. When not training, she would be immersed in meditation. Luckily, her social life wouldn’t suffer. Can’t lose something you’ve never had.

Book Loot – May Edition

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

ARCs for June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchases

None!

Games

AC: Syndicate

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

The Sinking City (aka: the rant)

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

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

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

Wrap-up

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

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

The Best Series You’ll (probably) Never Finish (Part I)

Many series end prematurely, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the authors die (cheery, I know). Sometimes their contracts are cancelled or not renewed and the series left unfinished. Sometimes they run over deadlines, or fail to deliver, or a tiger mauls the manuscript on its way to the editor. One way or another, for one reason or another, not all series will come to a satisfying conclusion. With the impending publication of not one but TWO Dresden Files books following a six-year hiatus, I’ve been thinking over the series that I love the most, but I’ll probably never see the end of. So here are (10?) recent series that you’ll (probably) never see the planned-upon end to.

  1. The Gentlemen Bastards – by Scott Lynch

Planned as a seven-book epic, Lynch has thus far delivered on but three of his genteel thieves’ tales. While he had two somewhat anticlimactic releases of Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, the issues really took off after the publication of the latter, when Lynch started suffering frequent and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. Somehow he managed to publish Republic of Thieves in 2013, after a six year hiatus. And supposedly, the fourth Gentlemen Bastards’ entry, Thorn of Emberlain, is finished (or at least drafted), and may be released soon. Now, I want to mention that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Scott Lynch—it’s only because of him that I included the “probably” in the title. Writing is hard. It’s even harder on a deadline. And anxiety, panic attacks and depression suck. I’ve had a fair amount of experience in this area, and can definitely assure you that they make everything harder. Most of the time I would wake up lethargic, morose and completely ambivalent about life—that’s hard enough when you’re not trying to write a multi-book fantasy epic. Now, I know that Gollancz has been working with Lynch, giving him time, doing whatever they can to see this series come to fruition. And I know that if anyone can complete it, it’s Scott Lynch. But we’ll just have to wait and hope, now.

2. Lucan Drakenfeld – by Mark Charan Newton

Mark Charan Newton published two full-length Drakenfeld novels and one short between 2013 and 2014. Since then, he’s come out with one other novel under a different pseudonym. As works of great fiction go, it wasn’t great. But as for the fate of Lucan—we’ve heard nothing. Not surprisingly, Newton has had a full-time, day job since before 2017. He works for the Waterford Distillery—a dream job for a whisky lover like him—as their communications head. Since we’ve heard little of him since, I’d say that our chances for a third Drakenfeld book are poor for the foreseeable future.

3. Chronicles of the Exile – by Marc Turner

Back in 2015, Tor published When the Heavens Fall, the first entry in the Chronicles of the Exile—an new epic series set in sprawling, fantastical world on par with some of the true masters of world-building. The plot, performance and pacing however, left something to be desired. But in 2016, Turner followed up with two more books—replacing many of the characters from the first novel, while installing counterparts in their places—each novel pushing the plot and world-building to new heights, and quickly established himself as one of the masters of epic fantasy. Early the following year (2017), he came out with a few shorts set in the same world, each hinting at possibility for the future of the series. He even teased the desire to return to the first cast, before continuing with the fate of the second.

Since then, we’ve heard nothing. Now, in preparation for this piece, I’ve actually tried to find what happened to him. And… nothing. Dude’s just gone. I mean, fantasy authors can be popular with their fans, but they’re not rockstars, or kings. It’s not too difficult for them to vanish, if they want to. Or if they don’t, even. Not only did I find nothing, I found a bunch of other people who also found nothing. Needless to say, the Chronicles of the Exile is on hiatus at best—at worst, though, it’s done.

4. Rising World Trilogy – by T.R. Williams

We know relatively little about T.R. Williams. Other than being the author of the World Rising Trilogy, I actually know very… nothing about them. Including their gender and/or choice of pronouns. So let’s focus on what we do know. In 2014, Williams published the first two books of their trilogy. Journey into the Flame dropped in January, proceeded by Journey through the Mirror in December. Originally, Book #3—Journey Past Time—was scheduled to come out in 2015, but was delayed to 2016. Then it was delayed again, this time indefinitely. Since then… nothing. At least for most of the other ones I had something to speculate on, something to analyze, over-analyze, write into a good somewhat decent maybe not terrible article. For the World Rising Trilogy, however, I got nothing. As far as I know, it’s done.

5. Pax Arcana – by Elliott James

Pax Arcana is [currently] a five book urban fantasy series starring Harry Dresden and Jacob Black love-child, John Charming. A ladies man and perennial smart-ass, Charming was a lone wolf (right?) until almost halfway through Book #1, when he met a lovely blonde Valkyrie that would become the love of his life. And, subsequently, ruin the series following Book #3. Now, it’s not HER—it’s THEM. Together. More to the point, while John and Sig’s interactions from the last few books may have slowed the series, it’s Elliott James’s day job, surely, that may’ve doomed it.

So, dude is a MS/HS English teacher, which means he’s criminally overworked and underpaid. Depending on where he lives, it could be much, much worse. So I’m guessing that while he may or may not already have a second job, he probably didn’t have a lot of free time to begin with. Fun fact: Writing a novel takes time. Less fun, but still a fact: Teaching children takes a lot of energy. And: Writing a novel while teaching children is haaard. I have a little experience in this area—I had to abandon a perfectly good November Novel after only a couple days. James, somehow, made it to Book #5 before vanishing off the face of the earth. Legend Has It, the (as of now) final entry in the Pax Arcana, was published in early 2017. After that, nothing more has been seen of James. His blog seems abandoned and his twitter account has been shut down. The last message I can find from him dates to just after the release of Legend, and describes the new series he’s working on. Now, though I’d read more Pax Arcana books (probably), or something else entirely from him, I kind of suspect the author might have suffered some sort of child-related death.

6. Children of the Old War – by H. John Spriggs

Knight of the Flame began a good, old-fashioned high fantasy series, released by H. John Spriggs back in 2014. Now, as with many high fantasy epics, Knight of the Flame featured a bit of a lag in the middle. Slow-paced, intensive focus on detail and world-building—it eventuall ended in a lovely manner, setting us up for a thrilling sequel. Of which we heard next to nothing for most of two years. And then, Winds of a Growing Storm was released in summer 2016. Now, full disclosure: I haven’t read it. Yet. But—I will.

Anyway, since then (July, 2016), we’ve heard from H. John Spriggs once. Just under three years since Book #2 released, he popped back up on Goodreads and Twitter to announce that he was still working on Book #3, but progress was slow. Part of the reason for this was that he was also writing a prequel to the series at the same time. Now, I’m hoping that Book #3 won’t be too much longer, that he’ll get it out soon—but it will come in his own time. The thing is: will #3 mark the end of the Old War? Or is it just another step in an exceedingly longer series? If the former, I’m skeptical that everything will be wrapped up nicely. But for the latter… it seems that Spriggs is in a good place right now. It’s just as possible he won’t get back to it. Which would be disappointing, but also okay.

This fun and totally not depressing segment will continue in… at some point in the future.

On Tap 4/30

Currently Reading

The Last Stormlord – by Glenda Larke

Granthon is the only Stormlord left in Breccia, the only one able to bring rain to the Quartern. Without him—all will be lost, the lands returning to dust and sand—the only rains that fall will be unscheduled, natural, wild. As Granthon’s son searches for an answer, a slave and a worthless boy may yet rise to save the world. Or doom it.

Now, after I abandoned a couple of things at the top of my TBR, I just decided to grab something and give it a shot. This was an impulse read. It’s been idling around on a shelf, and I’ve always meant to read it. I’m about 1/6 of the way through and so far, so good. I’m a fan of Larke’s writing, so maybe I’ll actually finish it.

Sea Change – by Nancy Kress

A climate-change thriller about a woman and her past, the same woman and her future, and the Organization that might yet save the world. A cell of environmental radicals, they might be the only hope the world has left. I started this novella just recently, and it’s alright thus far. I got an email from the publisher a few weeks back that they’d pushed the release date back to May, but I haven’t actually seen anything that corroborates this; anyone know?

Up Next

The Kingdom of Back – by Marie Lu

A book I honestly can’t remember anything about—automatically checked out from my library’s online section. Uhh, two siblings blessed with musical ability, but only one will be remembered forever. Apparently it’s historical fiction set in the 18th century… and I’ll just go in blind. Reading like that is fun every now and then.

It’s been a tough month for me, reading-wise. Everything I start I seem to stall out on; mostly I’ve only gotten through audiobooks, though I managed to clear a couple print books too. Even got through an ARC or two. Ranger of Marzanna was a DNF, sadly, so there won’t be a review of that. Sufficient to say it was BORING and nothing happened and I hated the characters. There’re a few ARCs I’m behind on, a few I’m too excited to wait patiently for, and I dunno what’s going to win out. I guess we’ll see.

What’s everyone else reading? Anything I need to get to? Let me know!

Book Loot – April Edition

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

ARCs for May

Firewalkers – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (5/12)

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

The Bayern Agenda – by Dan Moren

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

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

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

Purchases

To Be Taught, If Fortunate – by Becky Chambers

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

Where Gods Fear to Go – by Angus Watson

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

Age of Empyre – by Michael J. Sullivan

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

Audio

Skyward – by Brandon Sanderson

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

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows – by John August

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

Retribution Falls – by Chris Wooding

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

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

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

Free Stuff!

Forsworn – by Brian McClellan

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming

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

Get more games, of course!

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

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

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