May 2022

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

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

Currently Reading

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

ARC

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

Standalone

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

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

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

Zachary Ying #1

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

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

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

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

The Collarbound – by Rebecca Zahabi (5/12)

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

Equinox – by David Towsey (5/12)

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

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

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

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

The Sandsea Trilogy #1

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

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

Hide – by Kiersten White (5/24)

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

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

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

Other Releases

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

The Final Architecture #2

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

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

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

What Idris discovers there will change everything.

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

Frost Files #4

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

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

Book Purchases

Annex – by Rich Larson

The Violet Wars #1

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

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

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

Those Above – by Daniel Polansky

The Empty Throne #1

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

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

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

Music

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

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

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

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

Games

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

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

Life

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

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

Agents of Dreamland – by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Review)

Tinfoil Dossier #1

Scifi, Horror, Novella

Tor.com; February 28, 2017

125 pages (paperback)
2hr 39m (audiobook)

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6.5 / 10 ✪

Winslow, Arizona
2015

The events of the earlier week in Riverside still haunt the faceless agent known only as “the Signalman”, but he’s more worried about the woman he’s set to meet than any memories he could ever suffer. Still, the ranch house comes close.

Meanwhile, the disappearance of an interplanetary probe just beyond the orbit of Pluto hints at something more worrying. If the Signalman is lucky, the two are isolated incidents. Coincidence. But the government doesn’t believe in coincidence. And the Signalman wouldn’t consider himself lucky. Hence his presence at the meeting in the first place.

And with the two coincidences comes a third: a mysterious, pallid woman outside of time and place. With her, comes the Signalman’s greatest worry. But also—humanity’s last hope.

A confusing start eventually gives way to an intricate science fiction tale of spores, zombie fungus, invading aliens, but ultimately presents its reader a conclusion featuring more questions to ask than it deigns answer, at least before the second installment.

While I ended up relatively enjoying this title, it certainly did not start out this way. In fact, the first time I picked up Agents of Dreamland, I ended up DNFing it due to lack of interest: I couldn’t figure out what was going on, where the story was headed, WHAT the story was at all, and why I was supposed to care. In the audio version, while these were still very real concerns, I could focus on something else (in this case Cyberpunk 2077), while I waited for the plot to come together.

Fortunately, everything did gradually converge, as the two very different story threads were eventually tied together with a third POV joining the mix. I’ve seen this approach work before—quite well, even—but it was an interesting choice for this particular format. A full-length novel, or one longer, would be a good choice, because it allows ample time for world-building and/or character development. A novella, on the other hand… never has much of either. So, when the story finally comes together, not only is there only 30% or so of an already undersized book left, but neither does it really feel like we’ve accomplished much more than subtle hints at the greater whole.

I guess that it’s a good thing that when the plot comes together, it actually hints at something so promising, so interesting. I’ve mentioned that nothing really comes out of this story, but it sets the stage for something greater come Book #2. That it begs more questions than it answers. Obviously I can’t get much into what this is because of spoilers, but sufficient to say that it involves zombie fungus, aliens, and a world that has not yet come to pass. Between the subtlety and vagueness, there’s not much of substance in Agents of Dreamland. But the world that it hints at—I want to see. I NEED to see. Something on par with the Last of Us or The Last Man with its detail or immersion or depth of field.

Another point in Dreamland’s favor is the ambience of the story. Even from the first—a dust-choked town, a 2015 diner with 1940’s vibes, a mysterious lead known only as “the Signalman”—it’s all so atmospheric. Say what you want about the story or its characters, from the very first scene I connected with this world. I could feel the dust in my eyes and on my skin, the sweat drying on my back and armpits. I could taste the stale, tepid Dr. Pepper. I could hear the relative quiet of the desert, the click-clack of the train. I could picture the lit cigarette, dirty suit, 40’s diner, hazy twilight. I’m not sure what I have to say about the world-building of Agents of Dreamland, but it has nothing on Caitlin R. Kiernan’s ability to illustrate a scene. All the places we spent time in were as vivid as they were intricate and detailed. While I didn’t necessarily connect with the story, I connected so much with the world around it that it almost made up for it in the end.

TL;DR

Overall, Agents of Dreamland was an interesting, if not exciting beginning to the Tinfoil Dossier. The world itself is beautifully rendered, and hints at a deep, thoroughly thought-out plan for what’s to come in the series. Which is good, because the story of Dreamland itself fails to wow in any meaningful way. Only materializing with about a quarter of the text left, it does little more than introduce the reader to the world, before snapping the book closed on it. Despite this, I’m interested to see where the story goes from here. There’s promise of aliens, brain-fungus, and some sort of apocalypse in the future entry, Black Helicopters. That said, the reviews of Book #2 that I’ve seen are less than flattering, so it might well be all for nothing. Guess we’ll see.

When I bought the novella, it had the reasonable price of $4 for the ebook of a novella—though that’s now risen to $8. Which… ehhh. Not so great. I got the audiobook free, so that’s what I’d recommend doing if I were you. The 2nd entry in the series, Black Helicopters, is currently $7 for an ebook, which isn’t a lot better—though it IS about twice as long.

Sisters of Shadow – by Katherine Livesey (Review)

Sisters of Shadow #1

YA, Fantasy

HarperCollins; September 30, 2021

368 pages (ebook)

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3.5 / 10 ✪

Beware minor spoilers for the story. Mostly it’s for the romance though, and I kept them vague.

Sisters of Shadow is tagged as an “unforgettable teen fantasy perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone”. Now, while I’ve not read Shadow and Bone (yes, I know, I know), I’m skeptical of this. First about the “unforgettable” part. I found the whole thing very forgettable, thank you. But I really want to focus on the “teen” part. Because other than the whole ’sapphic love’ thing, I’d argue that nothing in here seems very “teen”.

And that’s just a personal preference thing, really. If you’re the type of person that thinks homosexuality is wrong—be it religious, or culture, or personal, or whatever—that’s your call, yeah? I don’t want to debate anyone over this. If you’re that kind of person, you’re probably not going to tell your child about it until you absolutely have to, and when you do, just say that it’s wrong and leave it there. Otherwise, I don’t know what the appropriate age to hear about this is. Puberty, I guess? But, see, the ‘sapphic romance’ within… there’s no sex, or anything. Nothing like that at all. Two of the characters do fall for one another, but they don’t do anything more than cuddle. And maybe kiss. It’s implied that they’re together together, and that’s about it. It’s not very heavy or adult, as these things go.

Anyway, the book. The read.

I found it quite boring. But also quite maddening. You’ll see why. At this point, I’ll say the two best things I can about Sisters of Shadow. One—I didn’t hate it. And two—it was a pretty quick read. Now, I realize none of those things are all that flattering. And from the above rating, you probably know there’s a bit of a rant incoming. So. Um I guess. Read on to find out more?

In the prologue, Alice is kidnapped.

Shortly after, we meet Lily Knight. The adventure starts when her uncle, Alf—who seems like a fantastically nice human the entire time we see him—just tells her that she alone has to go rescue her friend (yes, alone; no one can go with her), because Alice is her responsibility. Serious, wtf. I don’t even remotely understand this. Much less how Alice is somehow Lily’s responsibility. They’re friends, not lovers.They’re both humans. They’re not related. Alice isn’t a pet.

At first I suspected it was poorly worded. Then it was reiterated. “Alice is your responsibility”. Because.

And so the journey begins. And it’s… not great. And here we come to my main problem with Sisters of Shadow.

Nothing happens.

Okay, okay, stuff DOES happen. It just never feels important. It never feels epic. It never feels REAL.

Adventures and journeys aren’t always fun. That’s kind of their thing. There’s always a problem, somewhere. No matter how well you play it. And when you don’t plan it, one would think that there’d be problems all around. That’s the whole allure of reading about epic quests and adventures, especially spontaneous ones; stuff goes wrong all the time, and it’s up to the characters to deal with these, frequently in creative or inventive or roundabout ways.

Every problem has an immediate solution, one she never has to do anything about. When Lily finds out how far it is to the ocean she gets dejected about the walk—and a horse appears. It just wanders up, pre-saddled and ready to ride. No further explanation. People go out of their way to help her through her journey, for no reason. (Yes, I realize this is a thing that some real people do. But everyone that helps her does so immediately and for nothing. Everyone.) Later, when Lily reaches the ocean, there’s a boat handy. When she reaches the lighthouse, there’s a dark-eyed boy who takes her in and feeds and waits on her. He’s even her own age and—yes, this is the actual romance. At least it takes Lily some time, if not any actual effort. Alice’s romantic other is literally the first person she meets.

Now, I will say that the ending is decent. Things almost feel real, consequential—and maybe that’s reason enough to read the sequel. Not for me, though.

Billed as a coming of age fantasy, Sisters of Shadow features two young women around the age of adulthood (Alice is 17, I presume Lily’s about the same). They just never act like it. Lily never acts any older than 13 or so. In the beginning, honestly it’s a bit younger. Alice is a little better, though not much. None of the others they meet around their own age are any better either. So. If this had been written as a late Middle Grade fantasy—I think it would work out great. For teens or middle-grade. Other than the same-sex romance (which I’ve already gone over), there’s nothing explicit or adult about this.

There might be a good story in here, somewhere. Heck, you might well have found it already, and are reading this review—shocked, annoyed, incredulous—that I didn’t see it too. But I did do my homework on this one. I checked the ratings, I skimmed reviews. Some people loved Sisters of Shadow. Some hated it. But most people thought it was meh. Not terrible, not great. That’s about the size of it. This wasn’t a terrible book, though it also wasn’t good. I’d even say it was meh if it hadn’t been so boring. If something had ever happened to change my mind about it. If anything had ever made me want to continue it, or the series. It did read quick, though I never felt invested. I did finish it, but I skipped around a bunch. But this definitely wasn’t for me. You might like this, or not. It’s $3 for an ebook, if you’d like to take a chance on it. Maybe you’ll love it. Maybe you’ll hate it. Or maybe, like the majority of reviews I’ve seen, you’ll think it was all a bit bland, a bit forgettable.

The story will continue in Sisters of Moonlight, due April 14th, 2022.

April 2022

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

So without further stalling…

Currently Reading

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

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

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

Vagrant Gods #1

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

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

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

Bloodsworn Saga #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison of Sleep – by Tim Pratt (4/26)

Journals of Zaxony Delatree #2

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

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

Something. Something epic.

Other Releases

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

Fetch Phillips #3

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

Music

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

Gaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind – by Jackson Ford (Review)

The Frost Files #1

Paranormal, Scifi

Orbit Books; June 18, 2019

497 pages (ebook)
13hr 24m (audiobook)

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Author Website

3.5 / 5 ✪

If you hadn’t guessed already by the title, and you’re not the kind of person who reads books that swear, like, a lot, maybe skip this one. Just saying—I did warn you.

Being a secret agent isn’t a bad gig, but it’s not the life Teagan Frost wants. Sure, she can move shit with her mind—but she’s so much more than just that. She’s got hopes and dreams and ambitions, and being a sideshow for the government isn’t one of them. Still, it’s better than being dissected, which is the only other legitimate “life” she has access to. But at least that option is closed off—at least for now.

But when a body turns up on site at her last job, killed in a way only she could ever have managed, dissection is—somewhat literally—back on the table. Now, the ambitious telekinetic has 20 hours to clear her name, a deadline not even the government seems likely to honor. Soon enough, her team is on the run, with only Teagan and her PK the reason they haven’t been caught yet.

At least it’s only the government that’s chasing them.

Or it would be if not for the rogue telekinetic she’s chasing, the notorious LA gang she’s pissed off, and the army of police that have been on the lookout for her ever since the murder. Now if only she could focus on that and not worry about her love-life getting in the way, or her past coming back to haunt her, or her friends falling into danger because of her own choices… she could maybe have a normal life. Maybe.

I’ve never actually finished a book by Rob Boffard before. Figures that the first one I do get through, it’s written under a pseudonym.

The Girl Who Could Move Shit with Her Mind isn’t exactly a literary masterpiece. It’s a good bit of high-octane, heart-pounding action. It’s a thriller that doesn’t let up, but a thriller all the same. Swearing ain’t exactly an art form, but even if it were, this book wouldn’t exactly be a work of art. Still, the writing’s not bad, the dialogue isn’t bad, and the plot sure isn’t bad either. None of these things are terribly innovative, but it’s still an entertaining read.

The plot is fairly straightforward. Teagan has been falsely accused of murder and has one day to prove her innocence. She has to call in every favor, cut every corner, and make every gamble she can in order to yada yada yada. Again, it’s not that this is a bad read, it’s just that it’s not very inventive or creative. Other than the bit about a telekinetic, it’s basically every thriller that’s ever been written. Which is all just a way to say that it better at least be entertaining.

Which it is.

I got through The Girl That Could in about a week, listening to it in my downtime approaching Christmas, partly because I was stuck at home with little else to do but read. And it was interesting, entertaining, and immersive. I didn’t pick it up because I was after something deep or thought-provoking, which is good, because it’s really not those things. This was a good, quick, entertaining thriller that does a lot of things right, despite not being terribly creative nor having an immaculate prose.

That said, the romance was a bit of a miss. With everything leading up to it, and everything else going on, I didn’t feel like there was really a chance for anything all that romantic to get a foothold. And the way that it ended, when it was finally given some time to, like, be romantic, was a joke. In some sense, it’s good that I didn’t sell out on the romance from the very beginning, because when it finally was given some time—and fell flat—I wasn’t surprised.

TL;DR

I’m going to keep this pretty short. If you’re after a thoughtful, intricate, and drawn out mystery, complete with deep, erudite characters and an innovative plot—this ain’t it. If instead you’re after a quick, entertaining thriller, with enough violence, language, and action to keep you immersed—yeah, this certainly fills that void. I wouldn’t expect it to win any literary awards or anything. I would buy this one, and the next (which I have, by the way), and schedule the two for sometime when I needed something quick, entertaining, and not too deep.

Audio Note: I quite enjoyed the narration of Lauren Patten! In fact, I doubt that I’d have enjoyed this book as much as I did without her behind the mouth of Teagan. She really sold Frost’s casual do-not-give-a-fuck attitude, even in the points where her character was completely freaking out. And I hear that she’s returned in the second installment, Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air, which I’ve already gone out and purchased.

The Adams Gambit – by D.B. Jackson (Review)

Thieftaker #5 / The Loyalist Witch #3

Urban Fantasy, Historical Fantasy

Lore Seekers Press; July 27, 2021

107 pages (ebook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

7 / 10 ✪

Contains Spoilers for The Witch’s Storm and Cloud Prison (Loyalist Witch Parts 1-2) and minor spoilers for the Thieftaker series leading up to now.

October 26, 1770 – Boston

The conclusion to the Loyalist Witch finds former thieftaker, Ethan Kaille, once again pitting his magic against the Crown witch, Charlotte Whitcomb. If you’ve read the previous novellas in the trilogy, you’ll be aware that Whitcomb is a lot less bothered by right and wrong than Kaille, and so is willing to do anything and use anyone in pursuit of her aims.

Throughout the series Charlotte Whitcomb has had two primary goals: the death of Samuel Adams, and the dissolution of the Sons of Liberty. In the Loyalist Witch, Whitcomb targeted Kaille and Adams directly. In the Cloud Prison, she moved her attention to his friends and kin. With these avenues now closed to her, the loyalist witch is now forced to her final gambit—an open bounty on Adams’ head.

By now Ethan Kaille is sworn entirely to the side of liberty. But even so, one hundred pounds is a princely sum, sure to even test his loyalties. But even though it fails to sway him, the bounty is sure to bring hunters from all around the colonies upon Boston. And it’s up to Kaille to fend them off.

Luckily, he has friends and allies to assist him in this fight. Unfortunately, he cannot trust them all to stand beside him. As bounty hunters descend on Boston, Kaille must weed out those he cannot trust from those he would, even as a horde of unknown variables enter his city.

Again, Ethan Kaille confronts Charlotte Whitcomb, with the life of Samuel Adams and the cause of liberty on the line. And while Ethan may have let her walk away in the previous two entries, he’s certainly learnt his lesson about being too lenient.

You know, probably.

If you’ve read any of the rest of the Thieftaker books, you know that Ethan is a big softie. He doesn’t like to kill unless absolutely necessary, and won’t even consider it if the foe he happens to be facing is a woman. …You can probably see where this is headed.

But Charlotte Whitcomb is trying his patience. First, she tried to kill Ethan’s best friend, Diver, and his fiancé. Next, she went after his wife, Kandice. Additionally, she’s been doing her best to off him from the start, along with anyone who gets in her way. But as you may expect, he’s still hoping to avoid killing her. But then, his “hope” is seeming pretty thin. And since Whitcomb is a powerful and connected Crown agent, any non-lethal approach won’t be easy.

And sometimes, you have to take a life to save a life.

While this wasn’t quite as good as the first novella in the sequence, the Adams Gambit is still a decent story. But I have to admit, I’m kinda burned out by Charlotte by this point. Throughout four books and three novellas, we’ve really only had two or three real foes. I’m craving something new, rather than the same exact setup as the last story three times in a row. Luckily, because of the short length, this setup goes by rather quickly. Unfortunately, it is basically a rehash of each of the first two beginnings.

In fact, my biggest issue with the Adams Gambit is that it basically reads like a mashup of the first two in the sequence—albeit with a few twists thrown in. Yes, there is the whole issue of whom we can and cannot trust. Yes, Kaille has to decide whether or not he’s going to deal with Charlotte once and for all, or find some other workaround. Yes, the ending is completely different from the others, and it puts the story to rest. But seeing as how I read it not a week ago, I really should be able to remember something else from the first half—except that it just blends into the from the first two. And again, yes, the second half is new and different and undeniably entertaining—but is it enough?

I would argue, yes, it’s entertaining. And if you read the first two, you’re going to want to complete the sequence. But it really could have been better. The whole Loyalist Witch sequence has started to feel a bit stale. I love concept of Thieftaker and the series up til now, but it’s started to fall into a rut. While I’d very much like to see the series continue, I’d also like for the author to take a chance on something new: a new enemy, a new city, a new cause, a new magic, a new… whatever.

So… still recommended, but with a caveat. It’s not perfect, especially the first half—which feels like it’s been done three times over—but it’s entertaining and completes the overarching story in a unique (if not wholly new) manner.

March 2022

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

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

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

Currently Reading

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

ARC

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

Stars and Bones #1

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

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

Many thanks to Titan Books for the ARC!

Ogres – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (3/15)

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

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

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

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

Curfew – by Jayne Cowie (3/22)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn’t it?

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

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

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The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.

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

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

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

Other Releases

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

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

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

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

A ghost that Hector owes a debt.

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

Gallant – by V.E. Schwab (3/01)

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

Last Exit – by Max Gladstone (3/08)

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

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

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

Novella Omnibus

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

The City of Dusk – by Tara Sim (3/22)

The Dark Gods #1

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

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

MUSIC

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

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

Gaming & Misc

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

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

A Psalm for the Well-Built – by Becky Chambers (Review)

Monk & Robot #1

Science Fiction, Novella

Tor.com; July 13, 2021

160 pages (ebook)

Goodreads
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Author Website

4 / 5 ✪

A Psalm for the Well-Built, the sixth book I’ve read by Becky Chambers, left me with some of the most lasting messages I’ve ever had from a book—although were maybe not the ones that she intended to. Let’s get into it.

Countless years before, the robots of Panga gained their sentience. They didn’t speak, didn’t kill their former masters—they simply laid down their tools and walked out of the factories, disappearing into the wilderness beyond the bounds of human civilization. Since then, no one has seen or heard from them, and life has carried on.

Sibling Dex serves as a monk of Allalae, the Summer Bear. Driven by something they can’t explain—a thought, a feeling, a longing for something more, something different, not to mention a distinct longing for the sound of crickets—Dex abruptly changes their focus to that of a tea monk wandering the outer villages on the frontier. It’s a big change from life in the City: an ox-bike and a wagon instead of their usual quarters; a life lived without the hustle and bustle, without the press of buildings, and crowds of people; the bounds of civilization giving way to the wilds of nature.

But there are no crickets.

Spurned by this, Sibling Dex abandons the hinterlands for the expanse of the outer wilderness in hopes of finding one of the lost orthopterans. It is here that they meet the robot.

The robot that is seeking humans. More specifically, their answer to one very important question: “What do people need?”

Unfortunately this is something that changes depending on who you ask, and when. Thus the robot will need to ask it a lot, all the time. Starting, obviously, with Sibling Dex.

Without constructs, you will unravel few mysteries. Without knowledge of the mysteries, your constructs will fail. These pursuits are what makes us, but without comfort, you will lack the strength to sustain either.

The story of this was something that hit close to home for me, as I’m sure it will for so many of my generation. So many people who are feeling lost, or are longing for something more, something different. After all this is one of the reasons why people are quitting their jobs nowadays to live life on the road, one day at a time, simultaneously looking for something simpler yet something more. After reading the first chapter I spent a sleepless night simply wondering over my life, my choices, and what the solution to it all might be. Honestly, I feel like it’s this message—rather than the one that emerges from the plot at the Well-Built’s conclusion—that has stuck with me. This quest for… something, that Sibling Dex finds themselves on. But then that’s not entirely unexpected; it’s a theme prevalent in so much of Chambers fiction—a search for meaning.

Once we get into the plot a bit more and the story starts to unfold, however, there’s a new theme. A philosophical one I’m seeing a lot more of lately. One that flaunts conventional religion and belief and custom as old-world. While I won’t get into my own particular (and odd, variable) beliefs on the subject, I will say that I found it just a bit too preachy for my tastes, whether or not I share the author’s belief. (Again, I won’t get into that here. Feel free to email me if you’re interested, want to argue about something, want to piss me off, or you’re just bored, I guess.) Because I read books for fun—and any particularly judgy tone never helped.

Other parts of the philosophy I didn’t mind—such as the urge to fix the planet before it’s ruined from climate-change and the like—but is sure to alienate others. And other bits that came across as jokes but might not have been, or vice versa.

“Is this typical of people, to apologize to things you kill?”

“Yeah.”

“Hm!” the robot said with interest. It looked at the plate of vegetables. “Did you apologize to each of these plants individually as you harvested them, or in aggregate?”

“We… don’t apologize to plants.”

“Why not?”

See, laugh if you want, but this is one of the reasons I’m not a vegetarian.

TL;DR

I did enjoy the jaunt through nature, seeing and feeling the world that Chambers’ has built—both those of the robots’ and humans’ making. The story itself was good but a little underwhelming in its conclusion. Now I know it’s a novella, and there is a promise of more in the future, but still I would’ve liked the story to leave me with more of a lasting imprint than the question: “What am I doing with my life?” But given how late the robot enters the story, I’m not surprised we didn’t get much. Still, I enjoyed the leads, especially Sibling Dex, and would certainly spend more time with them. I loved the world, and the ideas, and the peace that so much of the text instilled (interspersed with snippets attempting to convince me my life was a lie, which weren’t something I could fully discount, so…) Overall… I’d definitely still count it as a win. Something I’d recommend. Something I’d like to see more of.

With an ebook price of $11 (or £7.40 if you live in the UK, 9,40€ in the EU) and a length under 200 pages, this isn’t something I would recommend buying, just to read it. If you read it and want to own it—great! Knock yourself out. Otherwise, maybe get it on sale or something. I picked up a copy from my local library, which is also a good idea. I think you can also get it through Scribd, which I’ve only just discovered, so I’m unclear exactly. Personally I wouldn’t recommend paying the Tordotcom price for an ebook, but hey, it’s your money.

The Tchaikovsky Novella – Beautiful World of Books

I seems like every year I’m reading one or two Tchaikovsky novellas a year, thinking “Wow, I should really read more of his stuff”—only to read more of his full-length novels and thinking “Wow, why do I like this guy again?” Now, I’ve heard that it’s mostly his recent stuff that’s the problem. That it’s too dry and political. And dry. And boring. Now I’ve also heard that Shards of Earth is different; a return to his older work, his better stuff.

Still, Adrian Tchaikovsky has been pumping out one or two good novellas a year, which is quite impressive considering he’s also writing full-length stuff. For the last four years I’ve read one per—all of which have been excellent—a trend that has extended through this year. So here’s the art of the Tchaikovsky Novella:

And there they are: all the Tchaikovsky novellas from recent years! Do you have more to mention that I failed to include? I probably missed some, the way the guy keeps churning them out. Personally, I’ve read 5 of these 9 so far (the final five, while I haven’t read the first four: Ironclads, Elder Race and either Expert System ones). How many have you read? Or even heard of? And if you’ve never heard of Ogres before now, don’t worry—Tchaikovsky’s latest novella comes out the 15th of March, 2022. And it is as excellent as his recent work, I assure you;)

Chinese New Year 2022 – Year of the Tiger

恭喜發財!新年快樂!

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

But I’ll live.

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

Currently Reading

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

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

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Bluebird – by Ciel Pierlot (2/08)

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

Dead Silence – by S.A. Barnes (2/08)

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

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

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

Age of Ash – by Daniel Abraham (2/15)

Kithamar #1

Goodreads

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

Mickey7 – by Edward Ashton (2/15)

Standalone

Goodreads

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

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

Rockton #7

Goodreads

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

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

Nora Kelly / Corrie Swanson #3

Goodreads

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

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

Other Releases

The Harbour – by Katrine Engberg (2/22)

Kørner & Werner #3

Goodreads

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

MUSIC

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

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

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

Gaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

MISC

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

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

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

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