March 2021

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

ARCs

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Phoenix Flame – by Sara Holland (3 • 02)

Goodreads

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


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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Other Releases

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

Cass takes on her most dangerous challenge yet…

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

Goodreads

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

Namesake – by Adrienne Young (3 • 16)

Goodreads

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

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

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

Music

Hestia – The Rumjacks (3 • 12)

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

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

Currently Reading

Cage of Souls – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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

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

Shorefall – by Robert Jackson Bennett

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

The Queen’s Road – by R.S. Belcher

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

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

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

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

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

Currently Playing

Contains spoilers for Hitman & Hitman 2

Hitman 3

IO Interactive • 2021

22% Completion

Hitman 2

IO Interactive • 2018

61% Completion

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

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

Life

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

Hmmmmm…

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

I hate routines.

I’m going to have to change things up.

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

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

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

February 2021

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

ARCs

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Goodreads

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

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

Other Releases

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

Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

Voidbreaker – by David Dalglish (2 • 11)

Goodreads

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


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

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

TBR for February

Infernal – by Mark de Jager

Goodreads

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

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

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

Shorefall – by Robert Jackson Bennett

Goodreads

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

The Glass Breaks – by A.J. Smith

Goodreads

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

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

Music

Jylhä – Korpiklaani (2 • 06)

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

Amorphous – Icon for Hire (2 • 19)

Omega – Epica (2 • 26)

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

Currently Reading

Cage of Souls – by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Goodreads

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

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

A Rising Man – by Abir Mukherjee

Goodreads

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

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

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

Currently Playing

Greedfall

Spiders • 2019

16 hrs in / 14% trophy completion

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

Life

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

Let’s not talk anymore about it, eh?

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

Black Heart Update

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

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

Then the updates stopped.

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

Well, on December 31, he posted Chapter 38.

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

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

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

TL;DR

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

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

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

I do really hope Black Heart becomes a thing.

New Games for 2021 Q1

There’s actually not a ton that I’m excited about in the first quarter of this year. I haven’t decided yet on a next-edition console (plus they’re all sold out anyway), so it’s time to focus entirely on my current backlog of games

…and a couple new titles.

First off, though, have you seen the new Harvest Moon game? Now, I’m a sucker for Harvest Moon, but uh. Well, give it a looksee, eh?

Seriously though.

The art looks like an N64-era game and the concept is pretty lame. Also, it doesn’t look big. Or even interesting. I guess if I have a craving for some farming I’ll just play Friends of Mineral Town or Stardew Valley. Or wait til spring and plant my own.

Either way, there’s no way I’m recommending this.

As for the things I AM excited for…

Hitman 3

1 / 20 / 21

IO Interactive

Now, obviously I don’t condone the wanton murder of anyone. Or the any kind of murder of anyone. But as a stealth gamer I have very limited options. Options that are as distasteful as… well, um I actually quite ADORE the Hitman series. The first was pretty entertaining. The second was monumentally entertaining. The third I have great hopes for.

Warning: the following footage contains some violence and spoilers for the game itself

The amount of options, of disguises, of new and unique places and people, of stealth capabilities—even more so, the fact that you get rewarded for using stealth, minimizing casualties and collateral damage, and exploration. I think it’s a very well rendered and executed concept, and a very entertaining game in general. In addition, I’ve always found its replayability to be quite high, just from the number of different ways to play, secrets to discover, and side-stories to interact with.

Little Nightmares II

2 / 11 / 21

Tarsier Studios

I’m not a huge fan of horror. Only occasionally do I read the genre. Generally, I find horror movies boring. Horror games… no thank you.

Welcome to the exception (well, one of them). Maybe it’s the art-style or the setting or the non-specific lore, but I loved the first of these, though the trial and error nature of it and the less than stellar controls sometimes frustrated me. But after gameplay footage of #2 from one of my favorite outlets, I’m totally on board.

Warning: the videos/links do contain some language and minor spoilers for the game itself

It’s not going to be a long game, though #2 seems like it’ll be a bit longer than the first one. If you’re a more casual, less interactive gamer with a penchance for horror, I urge you to give it a shot. The story’s a bit light, but there’re more than enough secrets and clues throughout for you to come to your own conclusions. Also, if you haven’t heard of these before, maybe check out some footage from the first one to see if it’s something you might be into.

And that’s it! I still have a fair amount of backlog to dig through (which I’ll mock up something for in a little), including Cyberpunk, which I’ve only just scratched the surface of—and which I’ve yet to find any bugs. But there’re these two gems (or, I hope they’re gems) which I figure I’ll likely play one or the other around their release.

Have you heard of either? Are you excited for anything else coming out before April rolls around? Does anyone that reads this even PLAY video games (I won’t hold it against you if you don’t but I know one or two of you occasionally need to escape from your children or spouses, so…)

Update – Currently Reading

So since yesterday, I started a new book. It started with an email I received from the publisher, asking how I’d liked the read, and imploring me to get my review for it in. I’ve nothing against the asking, but this caught me off guard. See, the book in question had been delayed in the US til late September. So I’ve put it off a bit as my July is littered with new releases, and I’m not a very fast reader. But I overlooked two important details. One—I didn’t check to see if it was delayed in Europe as well and—two—I’d forgotten just who granted me the review copy. I don’t get many books off Netgalley UK, but this one I did. And it’s still due out July 2 there. So I’ve shuffled a few things, and begun reading:

• The Constant Rabbit – by Jasper Fforde

If you’ve never read a Jasper Fforde book, let me tell you—they’re odd. Like, really weird. The first chapter of this involved some game called ‘Competitive Librarying’ which confused me so thoroughly that I actually just skipped the chapter. But thankfully, it appears to be just an intro hook. Albeit a massively confounding one. The Constant Rabbit is based on something that has occurred in the UK some 50 years prior, known only as “The Event”, in which 18 rabbits were anthropomorphized. Since then, there are millions of them in the UK alone, and relations between them and humans are… strained. The story seems to center on this point.

It’s okay thus far—weird, which is normal for Fforde—but it’s really coming out at a poor time. I cringe at the idea that someone’s going to compare this with the Black Lives Matter movement, because it WILL happen eventually, and it’s sure to be really insulting. Which is disappointing, as the book is most likely designed to keep you entertained, make you think, and provide some humor.

Black Heart (The Best Series You’ll probably Never Finish)

Remember the Barrow?

So back in 2014, Mark Smylie released the Barrow, a peek into his RPG world of Artesia. A dark fantasy epic featuring a woman dressed as a man, an enlightened world regarding sex, and a dark haven of strange and brutal cults, treasures and adventure. It’s been a while since I actually read the Barrow, and as I’m a bit fuzzy on the details—I won’t try to review it here. If you haven’t read it, it featured a generally good if meandering story, set in a beautifully designed and detailed world of grey and red.

But that’s not what this is about.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about the best series you’ll probably never finish. This was a reference to those series that end too early—for whatever reason—and we’ll never see an actual conclusion to. If you’re interested, please check it out, and add your own in the comments. These are only series that I’ve read—and I can’t read everything. Anyway, I’ve been working on Part 2 of at least 3 or 4, which has involved researching series and authors and emailing publishers and reading up on books. Now, one of my potentials for this list was the ill-fated sequel to The Barrow, named Black Heart.

This one has been delayed for a while, to the point that I figured it’d be a pretty easy add to the list, but after a little research into it, I’m… well, less sure. Mostly as it seems that Smylie actually seems to have this one in hand, so much so that I think it’ll see the light of day, in one form or another.

A little background first. Back in March of 2014, the Barrow released to fairly positive reviews. It was a solid, entertaining read, from a guy who had already created a world and possessed many stories set in it. But writing is hard. And it didn’t surprise anyone overly much when the sequel—which was originally scheduled to be published later that same year—was delayed. And as Smylie got distracted by other projects and battled writers’ block, the book was further delayed. Last I checked (in 2018) the project was still ongoing, with the publisher Pyr eventually expecting to print a book. Then in late 2018, Pyr was sold.

The new parent company, Start Publishing, claims to have asked for an ETA on a manuscript and received no response. I haven’t heard back from Smylie on this, but I’d assume that my emails just ended up in his spam folder, because that’s happened quite a lot during this article. But whatever happened, Pyr’s new owners nixed any plans on publishing Black Heart, and that was that.

Except, that it wasn’t.

While Smylie hasn’t finished Black Heart, he is a good 250,000 words in. With Pyr out of the picture, he looked to self-publishing. He established a Patreon to help him work on the novel, posting roughly one chapter a week, though for the past month he’s only posted one. As of May 2020, it has amassed 29 of its anticipated 47ish chapters, but Smylie says that he’s written 37 of them. There’s also a Part I PDF for subscribers, but I can’t (yet) tell you how long it is. So it looks like this thing may actually get out. I don’t know (yet) whether this concludes the extent of his plans to get the story out there, but I’ll figure it out.

Well, maybe. Eventually. Since I’m a little bit off work until… further notice, I’m a bit cheap. If you can’t wait for Black Heart, maybe go check it out? Entry level access to the 29 chapters available so far is set at $5/month, which—I’m not in a position to afford. Yet. So… tell me about it if you decide to splurge, eh?

Expect another entry into the best unfinished series soon, which will clear up most of the multibook ones in my reservoir. After that we’ll primarily deal with sequels, standalones that never saw the light of day, series that were announced but will likely never be finished, and others whose authors died before finishing them.

Black Heart

Mark’s Patreon