Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

November Wrap Up & December’s Hopefuls

Oyy I am struggling to put my thoughts on November into words.

November Wrapup

I thought my reading fell off the board but I was pretty on par with 11 books finished, the majority of them sci-fi this time.

The breakdown looked like six sci-fi books, one fantasy, three thrillers, and one non fiction. I rated 5 of those three stars or lower too so I am blaming my slump both on life events and some rough picks.

My favorite (and one of only two five star reads) was Wistful Ascending, an indie space opera action packed sci-fi by JCM Berne

Here on the website:

On the blog, I had 17 posts (a near record) but overall views are on the low side of average. I wrote a few articles that I really liked and didn’t get much traction, so, /shrug. I’ve got a few weeks until the yearly subscription renewal to decide if I’m going to keep the blog up next year and it’s a hard choice this time around.

New books:

i bought way too many e-books due to various indie author sales. As far as physical books I went slightly overboard with Angry Robot’s black Friday sale (half off? Ok come on…) And ended up with 6 books. I have no regrets 😅

December TBR:

My December TBR is practically non existent. I just don’t care about reading lists anymore. I’ve got an early finished copy of The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford that I have to review (out 12/6) and two from Celadon Books that I did not request, but I usually do read and review anything they send me because they’re good people.

I’m about 40% of the way through my last current review copy, Rubicon by JS Dewes. It feels very long as I’m reading it but I hope to finish before I head out on some travels next week.

I don’t know how much other reading I’ll get done. It won’t gain me any views but my mood wants to re start my re reading of all the John Sandford books. Prey was something we were all able to connect over and talk about, so the series feels like it could be a comfort read if I have time.

Misc:

Travel wise, my plans for Christmas kind of got ruined but I’ll be back from the UK mid month and then have a few days to regroup and probably head to my mom’s, so again I’ll see what the month entails before committing to any crazy reading. I believe there is going to be some bookshop crawling while I’m in Birmingham so definitely look for one of my bookish travelogue posts mid month 😉


What do you guys have in store for December?? Let me know in the comments!

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Death, Rites, Lore, & More: How do various fantasy books look at these things?

I’m not sure I’m readily equipped to handle such a big topic yet but I’ve been preoccupied with death and started thinking about how death, ghosts, remembrance, rites, customs and etc are portrayed in different fantasy books.

I’ve also been taking fan submissions for what to write about this week and a Twitter follower said something like “books and/or quotes that left you breathless.” This was a pretty easy thread to combine so here you go, friend!


I know there are a lot of really unique takes on death throughout the fantasy genre but I wanted to take a look at a few I’ve read recently (think the past few years, or, I remember them vividly enough to comment).

First off, in broad terms, a lot of military fantasy handles death in a light that tends to reflect our modern day thoughts.  Characters can die en masse during conflict, some go out as heroes, others die in accidents or simply senselessly, much as in real life.

I’ve got to mention one passage first that left me absolutely breathless when I read it – from Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson.  One could write three essays on death in Malazan but it’s an embodiment of what I wrote above, everything from hundreds of thousands dieing in one day to an isolated hero, to the last man standing.  Malazan spends a lot of time brooding on death and remembrance, with reincarnation and spirits and many, many related themed explored throughout.

Anyway, here is that passage:

The unnamed soldier is a gift. The named soldier–dead, melted wax–demands a response among the living…a response no-one can make. Names are no comfort, they’re a call to answer the unanswerable. Why did she die, not him? Why do the survivors remain anonymous–as if cursed–while the dead are revered? Why do we cling to what we lose while we ignore what we still hold?

Name none of the fallen, for they stood in our place, and stand there still in each moment of our lives. Let my death hold no glory, and let me die forgotten and unknown. Let it not be said that I was one among the dead to accuse the living.

and a quote from Toll the Hounds:

Survivors do not mourn together. They each mourn alone, even when in the same place. Grief is the most solitary of all feelings. Grief isolates, and every ritual, every gesture, every embrace, is a hopeless effort to break through that isolation.

To face death is to stand alone.

Whether or not you agree, I feel this in my bones.  I’ve thought about these passages more than anything else I’ve read in the last year, I’m sure of it.

So let’s look at how death is handled in some other popular (and not so popular) fantasy.

I know there’s a lot of understandable hatred towards Harry Potter right now but as a kid, it was the first book I read that took an honest look at death and put it in palatable terms for me as a young reader.  The series takes a frank look at how much is lost in war, the cost to community, family loss, orphans, and also gives the reader the idea that family never leaves us. When Harry saw his family in the Mirror of Erised, it planted that seed for honor and remembrance and the ones that never leave us, a scene rehashed at the end of the series.  It also runs the themes of heroes, accidents, senseless  curse rebounds, and that no one is immune to death. My favorite was the story of The Deathly Hallows, embracing the eventuality of meeting death on equal terms.  I also love the idea of Thestrals, the skeletal pegasus that is invisible until someone has viewed death – terrifying but actually very friendly and useful once a respectful relationship has formed.  I could write pages on Thestrals alone.

Another favorite series of mine that I talk about frequently, Green Rider, has choked me up more than once in it’s remembrances of the fallen.  I have never read a book with such a subculture built around death and preservation.  The catacombs are the scene for some of the most moving parts of the entire series and shows that heroes and history can be cherished and revered.  The main character has an affinity for communicating with ghosts (which will break your heart some times) but she also experiences such things as a type of berserker ride fuelled by ghosts, the shenanigans of ghosts wreaking havoc in the archives, and more.  One of my favorite scenes is a remembrance ceremony where they all say the name of a deceased rider. That all said, it’s another fantasy series that kills characters in conflict, lets some go out at heroes, some die cruelly at the hands of enemies, and some are just. So. Senseless.  Which is another reason why I shamelessly label Green Rider as military fantasy.

Moving on to a book which holds a rather alien view of death that stopped me cold when I first read it- Slaughterhouse 5.  Just think about death for a moment and try to expand to a nonlinear frame of reference, then read this passage:

The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them….

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

Kurt Vonnegut

A bit mind-blowing, isn’t it?

There are lots of YA fantasy books that focus on death too, like Scythe, where Neil Shusterman looks at death from a pinpoint of random necessity.  It’s not fair, and no one is immune, but a universally accepted construct of the reapers.  Some other recent ones include The Keeper of Night, about Japanese reapers, and Give the Dark My Love, about necromancy and the toll of plague and death on one’s sanity.  Love and souls.

I’d be amiss if I talked about YA/MG books and didn’t mention The Graveyard Book. I love this book because it gives kids the wonderful message to not fear death, to embrace being alive, and to kind of introduce the solitude and isolation that comes with grief.  If the Macabray existed, would you dance with the dead even if you had no memory of the fact?

You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change

This is starting to get long, so I want to end with another of my favorite authors and how he tends to handle death in his books – from a Christian perspective. Jeff Wheeler writes a lot of fantasy with Christian undertones, so you get everything from the funeral rites of Kingfountain to The Deep Fathoms, where the living can visit the dead once a year should the proper channel be opened.  In one series he offers us a land of the dead symbolized by a wall, in another it’s spirits exiting through a portal in the abbey.  I always find his deaths to be terrible but necessary, back to the theme of heroes and wars and accidents.

Very briefly, some indie books with interesting takes – The Last Blade Priest where deaths are sacrificed to these vulture type deities for sustenance and a whole religion (and conflict) is built around the practice.

A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla – I don’t honestly remember this one too well already but there was a new and interesting theme regarding not mentioning the dead at all.   It was really convenient for the characters who seemed to be chased by memories of the dead, frequently.


Wrapping this up, I have always been fascinated with how different books handle death.  I’m not even speaking of books where death is a character like, oh I don’t know, Terry Pratchett, but as a theme or subtext or just a book with interesting ideas. 

Do you have a book that deals with these topics that you enjoy or that made you think? Even a quote? Let me know in the comments!

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews Science Fiction

Happy Veterans Day ~ Let’s Chat About Some Favorite Military SFF

Happy Veterans Day to those who have served! I wish I had taken the time to compile a list of SFF authors who are also veterans, but for sure if anyone wants to throw some names out there I will make a post at a later date to feature them! Those also a link at the end which leads to a great article on how various authors took to writing military sci-fi after their service!

For now, let me randomly pick a few military science fiction & fantasy books that I have enjoyed, have been recommended, or want to read! Definitely comment if you want to add any favorites or make recs!

The Fantasy books are pretty well known but I would love to know what y’all think of my sci-fi picks, mostly written by veterans!


Let’s start with fantasy, because I only have three to mention that I’ve read in the past few years:

1) Green Rider: doesn’t present itself initially as a military fantasy.  The riders are a much underrepresented and fascinating branch of the Sacoridian army that function as the King’s messenger service, but are also fully trained and equipped to fight.  They serve many roles. The riders become more prominently featured as a military branch throughout the series and gain respect and military involvement due to the actions of the main character, Karigan, and their leader,  captain-turned-major Laren.  Might be a good choice for those transitioning into harder military fantasy

IMG_20221111_161656287_HDR

2) The Black Company: I don’t think Glen Cook needs any introduction.  My favorite thing about these books initially is that the narrator is the chronicler/medic, and he doesn’t quite understand magic nor care for warfare so much, so you get a chronicle of events from a more human perspective.  It’s pretty military though if not so tactically heavy.  It’s wild throughout the first few books and I’d like to keep reading at some point for sure.

IMG_20221111_161617550_HDR

3) I’ve only read the first two, but I’m amiss if I leave Malazan off my list of military fantasy books.  All I’m going to say is epic battles, huge sorcery, devastating consequences, it’s all there.   I’m not an elitist but I’ve had a blast reading so far and Deadhouse Gates was phenomenal.

IMG_20221111_161914134_HDR


Sci-fi:

I’ve read less military sci-fi than other genres over the years but have found a few favorites, and many more that I’d like to get to.  Kindle Unlimited has an absolute wealth of space Marines and military sci-fi to surf and I always wish I had time to randomly try and find more gems.

1) I’ll start with Starship Troopers because it helped spawn the entire genre.  I read and reviewed it last month and definitely think it’s worth checking out just for how influential it was.  Plus, Heinlein was a veteran of the U.S. Navy! 

51w-pXklTiL._SL350_

2) Speaking of veterans, while surfing Kindle Unlimited I stumbled across another veteran who writes Military SF.  I’m pleasantly surprised at how many people I know that have read and enjoyed Frontlines by Marko Kloos.  My reviews for the first three or four books are up on the blog here.  MK – thank you for your service!

Picsart_22-08-11_17-20-20-265

3) Another Veteran, one that I haven’t read yet but need to check out, is Michael Mammay and his Planetside series. He is a retired Army officer! These books come highly recommended and Mammay is pretty chatty with book recommendations on social media which makes me appreciate him.  Thank you for your service as well!

41s14injBDL._AC_SY780_

4) Another Veteran & author that I would like to continue reading, is John G. Hemry aka Jack Campbell. He is a retired Naval officer and has written a ton of military sci-fi books, including The Lost Fleet series as well as some spin offs. Thanks for your service as well Mr. Hemry!

81u6l5zFWPL._SL1500_

5)  Not long ago a friend also recommended Evan Currie’s series On Silver Wings.  He said “sometimes you just want explosions!” These books seem pretty short after the first one and are fairly highly rated, so I may check them out some day. I don’t believe Currie is a veteran but if he is, I apologize!

51o0im1S2yL

I also found this article that talks about some famous and not so famous veteran authors! It’s a great read for sci-fi fans https://www.stripes.com/former-troops-building-second-careers-in-military-science-fiction-1.417224


Please let me know what you think, add to my list!

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

October Wrap Up (How much dark fantasy can one blog feature in one month?)

The answer to the title is: quite a bit! October ended up being pretty amazing, so let’s just jump right in


GrimDarkTober

I didn’t think GrimDarkTober had a future after losing it’s platform (and community). Unbelievably, with two days to spare before October started, I found out that it still had an audience! I went to work, bugged the SFF Oasis, messaged some friends, and thanks entirely to the help of these people, pulled together a month of guest posts, guest reviews, and some dark fantasy content of my own. It turned into something that for having NO planning, went spectacularly. I think GrimDarkTober has started to gain a new community, so maybe stay tuned for 2023? Maybe I can merge with someone else’s dark and spooky themed thing?

To summarize the guest content really quick… 

You can check out additional content and all posts by searching “GrimDarkTober” in the search field *top left corner of the blog*

So that said, thanks to everyone who jumped in and wrote some guest content because you’re all amazing  ♥️👻

I should also add that I got to feature a super special Sunday Brunch Halloween edition this year, featuring John Palladino of The Trials of Ashmount 


Reading Summary:

I was incredibly loyal to my TBR this month reading all 8 of my definite picks and saving space for some impulse reads.

Thanks to some shorter novels and novellas it was actually a decent reading month.  I spread my little multi genre wings and talked about both indie and regularly published dark fantasy, classic sci-fi, a domestic thriller, a true crime novel, a lovely book of magical realism, and classic horror.

Screenshot_20221031-093757~2

Screenshot_20221031-093810~2

Screenshot_20221031-093818~2

All of these books have been reviewed here on the blog, minus the one I’ll talk about next.  I did also just finish Later by Stephen King but it will be my first review in November. I’m almost done with Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone but won’t finish it before tonight.

There is one book I read for an author and will not write a review for. As much as I loved The Witches of Crannock Dale last month and had a great interview with the author, I had content / age appropriateness issues with The Rebels of Caer City as the book went from middle grade to new adult real quick and I don’t think a series can have it both ways without keeping content appropriate to the lowest age group advertised for.  I’d say ok, maybe 16 year olds, but I also just didn’t enjoy reading it and am going to leave it at that 


October book haul:

None 🤣

I did not buy any books in October.  I did load up my kindle unlimited with some new reads and found some free e books from indie authors I’ve been looking at.  I also got lucky with some long time Libby holds coming in.


Miscellaneous:

There’s not much else to say.  Thanks to all the guest content I had a decent month here and am going to keep the blog going at least for now. I hope everyone had a great spooky month and found something good to read! 

Check in tomorrow for November goals and Sci-fi Month TBR!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Why I Gave Up on Grimdark Fantasy (A GrimDarkTober Guest Post from At Boundary’s Edge)

October is wrapping up along with a great month of GrimDatkTober guest content from a few of my favorite people across the SFF blogosphere.  I hope everyone has found a few more books to add to their ever growing TBRs!

Today I’m happy to present the last GrimDarkTober guest post for you all.  Nowadays he mostly sticks to Science Fiction, but Alex from At Boundary’s Edge used to be a huge fantasy reader as well.  True to his brand of cranky-but-actually-cinnamonroll-in-disguise vibes, check out this great piece on why he eventually put GrimDark aside

 


Why I Gave Up On Grimdark Fantasy

I grew up reading fantasy. I tried a thick, somewhat battered omnibus of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings twice before I was 10. Admittedly, I never made it through The Return of the King, but I was absolutely enchanted by the world. I remember seeing Robert Jordan’s Winter’s Heart on the shelves of a used bookstore and thinking from the sheer size that it must be something truly Shakespearean in content. I didn’t complete either Tolkien’s or Jordan’s epics until much later on, but I filled my time with other classical epic fantasy. The Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks were my first adventure in collecting a whole series. I read David Edding’s The Belgariad and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, and knew I was hooked on fantasy. As I hunted out new books to read, and sent my mother to do the same, I soon found myself in possession of a book with a bloodstained map for a cover. It was called, rather enticingly, The Heroes, and it was written by a man named Joe Abercrombie.

I was fifteen, and The Heroes offered me a new window on fantasy. This was a fantasy where people died a lot. There were no heroic sacrifices, just meaningless and pointless deaths. It was great. Blood spattered on every page, there was no clear-cut good and bad. Most of all, it was absolutely hilarious. It wasn’t only Union soldiers who had split sides by the time I reached the end. I rushed out by the other books set in the same world, and found them all in a similar vein. Though the books were filled with hateful characters, the writing itself was a clearly loving poke in the eye of the tropes and stereotypes of the fantasy I’d read up to that point. It was while looking for Abercrombie’s next book that I encountered the word that would change it all. Grimdark.

Finally I had a label for this darkly humour thing I enjoyed so much. I let that label guide me to my next reads. And so I came across Mark Lawrence. The Broken Empire wasn’t quite as riotously funny as The First Law, but Jorg had a way with words that could get a laugh out of me at times. His successor, Jalan from Prince of Fools was a much more jovial character. The comedic elements running through this books were distinctly British. A raised eyebrow and a ‘here-we-go-again’ mentality when it came to the tropes. These stories weren’t so much subverting tropes as having fun by actively running against them. And that’s what grimdark became to me. Fun. Over the top violence and a fistful of jokes wedged in for good measure.

At around the same time as I was reading Lawrence, I started Peter V. Brett’s The Demon Cycle and Brent Weeks’  . Both of these were books I had seen bearing the grimdark label in some corners of the online community, so I assumed they’d fill the same void. But they didn’t. I enjoyed both series, but neither was particularly funny. Even when they were over-the-top, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being played straight. They weren’t laughing at how bloody they could be, they thought it actually meant something. It was a emo, edgelord mentality that left me utterly cold.

Within a year or so, I discovered the work of David Gemmell, a forebear of grimdark who truly believed in heroism, and his work was a breath of fresh air. Gemmell’s work also led me to that of Stan Nicholls, who surely deserves more credit for running ahead of the grimdark curve. His Orcs novels are a sweary, bloody spectacle, at one point putting a unicorn horn to truly inappropriate use. But they’re funny. Weapons of Magical Destruction in its title alone tells you the tone of the book. A satire not only of fantasy, but of real-world events, all told with a crazy grin and an axe in each hand.

Meanwhile, the modern grimdark train rolled on. As an avid fantasy reader, I did what I could to keep up. I bought the first book of countless series, looking for that same witty high. I bought Anna Stephens’ Godblind, Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption, Devin Madson’s We Ride the Storm, and Mike Shackle’s We Are the Dead. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed a single one of them. They were well-crafted books, but they proved to me one incontrovertible fact. Grimdark had started taking itself seriously. The joy was gone. The laughter was dead. There were still some good books falling under the grimdark label. R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War is more of a historical fantasy, but uses that history of violence to provoke thought. Adrian Selby’s Snakewood is one of the few books to include a magic system that doesn’t make me pull my hair out. Anna Smith Spark’s Empires of Dust is a literary masterpiece in terms of prose, and even includes some of that too-rare humour amid all the misery and tragedy.

As the grimdark label covered more and more books, it ceased to hold the meaning that had drawn me in all those years ago. Worse still, the nihilism had spread to the far corners of the fantasy genre. Fantasy became a place where hope was for idiots and anyone calling themselves a hero was only after your money. It just wasn’t fun anymore. The worst offender was R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Came Before, a book that was, with its central thesis that men exist only to destroy and subjugate each other, so utterly devoid of cheer that I finally decided to call it a day.

Grimdark has cultivated a reputation for telling it like it is. For showing the world for the horrible place it is. But that’s wrong. Yes, there are bad things in the world (and worse than you’ll see in most grimdark books), but there’s joy in the world too. Even in the worst of situations, people will crack a joke. If all you’re doing is showing humanity being horrible to itself, you’re not being anywhere near as smart as you like to tell yourself. So much of modern grimdark seems intent on wallowing in self-pity, and dragging the reader down with it. Quite frankly, it’s become dull.

So yes, I’ll still read Joe Abercrombie. I’ll pick up Anna Smith Spark’s next book. But because of the author. Not because of the genre label that gets slapped across the cover.

Grimdark – whatever you are anymore – I’m done with you. Let me know if you get your sense of humour back.


You can find him online at: 

Blog: https://atboundarysedge.com/

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/HormannAlex

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews Horror

Roots of Darkness: The Horrifying Origins of Sword & Sorcery (A GrimDarkTober Guest Post by Peat Long)

This Sunday I’m thrilled to present a GrimDarkTober guest post from a book blogger who needs little introduction!  One of the many awesome people I met through a Wyrd & Wonder read along, Peat Long’s blog offers up a ton of book reviews, articles, lists, plus many other curiosities. With no further delay, here’s his article!


Roots of Darkness: The Horrifying Origins of Sword & Sorcery

For many, October tis the month of darkness. Gloom, murk, and perhaps a side of iniquity. Book twitter is full of tributes to this spirit, which is obviously difficult as bookish folk have no taste for the macabre and spooky, not least of which is Athena’s Grimdarktober.

Therefore, in my own tribute, I give her and you this post on sword & sorcery.

Some of you might not see the connection here. You might be thinking what does the genre of over-muscled louts seeking a totally not-compensating for anything life of big swords and scantily clad ladies have to do with dark fiction? The answer to that starts with two words.

Weird Tales.

Back in the 1920s, when pulp magazines played a big part in the American literary landscape, there was a magazine named Weird Tales. It was founded specifically to be a home for supernatural stories at a time when there was none, with repeated references to a particular influence: Edgar Allan Poe. A lot of the fiction published in the magazine reflected that influence; ghost stories, gothic stories, horror stories. But some of it was the nascent genre of sword & sorcery. How did that happen? And what influence did that have on the stories?

Some of the how lies in the peculiar mindset of Robert E Howard, whose Conan stories formed the accepted recipe for sword & sorcery. He was a bookworm who absorbed everything, a would-be pugilist with a dislike for the modern world, not to mention an author in search of ways to make a sale. Unconventional settings and violent stories came naturally to him, and were a natural addition to the more conventional horror fo the magazine.

A great deal of the how also lies with the very nature of Weird Tales. Its writers formed a close-knit community, writing to each other often, and few of them wrote as often as old Mr Nightmare Fuel himself, HP Lovecraft. His influence was felt in many ways – one proto S&S tale was inspired by him asking the author why not a story told from the werewolf’s perspective, another story got published after he prodded the editor – but the biggest was that of his stories.

At which point you start to see some other S&S staples enter the canon. Weird snakemen. Sinister sorcerers and their eerie cults. Indifferent, terrifying gods. Alien monsters and forgotten communities of malevolent people. In some respects, these are things the early S&S authors would have looked at anyway as these did reflect the fears of the time, but these are very much the sort of thing Lovecraft loved. As such, they very much part of what Howard, and other early S&S writers influenced by Lovecraft such as Clark Ashton Smith and Fritz Leiber, used.

Which means that, amid the tales of conquest and feud, of picaresque adventure in exotic locales, you get a distinct vein of sword & sorcery stories that are almost pure horror. Situations where mighty sinews, honed skill, and indomitable wills only allow our heroes to survive where all others have died. The worlds might be more historic than Lovecraft’s contemporary gothic stylings, the heroes more alive and sane at the end, but the similarity is marked.

And the result is some very dark fantasy fiction, perfect for your October reading! Want some examples? Here’s a few to look up…

Worms of the Earth by Robert E Howard – Howard’s most horrifying tale probably belongs to the character Bran Mak Morn, whose attempt to get revenge against the Romans involves making common cause with those he’d rather have nothing to do with. Very creepy.

The Howling Tower by Fritz Leiber – This adventure of Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser can be found in Swords Against Death, a collection which features a great many horror-esque stories. In this case, what seems a simple case of finding treasure in a tower goes rather unpleasantly wrong.

The Black God’s Kiss by CL Moore – This one can be found in just about any Jirel of Joiry collection, many of which are named after this story. The long and the short of it is some bastard takes Jirel’s castle and makes some presumptions about her sexual interest in him, so she elects to go to hell to find a weapon to right all of this. Hell is, unsurprisingly, somewhat unsettling.

The Testament of Athammaus by Clark Ashton Smith – This short can be found in the Hyperborea collection. It is the tale of a city’s downfall and an execution that won’t go right, told with mordant humour and gruesome horror, and a very nasty villain.

The Unspoken Name by AK Larkwood – From the old to the new. Larkwood’s riff on The Tombs of Atuan also includes plenty of that horror S&S feeling as the former priestess Csorwe navigates many, many terrifying challenges in her bid to prove her worth to her saviour.

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall – Another recent piece of weirded out adventure that seems to be in the spiritual lineage. It is more high flying and epic than most of the names here, but the adventures of Vasethe through the nine-hundred and ninety-nine spirit realms contains a good dose of uncanny wonder.

So there you go. Even the hardiest of heroes have horrifying moments, and all because it’s baked into the genre right at its very inception – hopefully you look up some of these stories and enjoy the dark side of sword & sorcery this Grimdarktober


You can find Peat online at:

– Twitter: @PeatLong

– Blog: https://peatlong.wordpress.com/

 

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

GrimDarkTober & TBR Time

October? I’m just going to tear the calendar off the wall, this is ridiculous.  If you missed my September Wrapup & General Update post, you can find it here.   The final item on it stated that obviously I can’t do GrimDarkTober without Bookstagram, but is that really true?

I had one good friend comment and a few others message me that they enjoyed the content and will miss the festivities, interviews, and such, so I chewed it over and asked some friends for help.  The result is that I’m going to host a hodgepodge of Grimdark content here, from some of my favorite writers in the blog verse, which will all be finalized sometime soon and I’ll post a schedule as I know it.  If enough people follow along maybe I can do prompts and prizes via Twitter next year?

Also if anyone wants to write a spooky themed or grimdark feature to be hosted here, let me know! I’m open to lists of favorites, guest reviews, articles, spooky recommendations, Halloween photography, literally anything you want! 

For now, I have a kind of tentative TBR laid out that hopefully won’t go to trash like last month’s reading.


1) I’m actually almost done with Wizard & Glass, which is turning out to be spooky, sad, and everything else King is known for. I’m definitely an Oy and enjoying “the flashback book”

2) Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen – this is one of the last finished copies I received from St Martin’s Press and I need to get it read and featured asap.  There are ghosts, invisible birds, a murder mystery, lost stories, and more, so it’ll be a good reprieve to read some magical realism after King destroys me at the end of W & G

3) I set it down last month because it was too similar to my prior reads and too dark for me to enjoy at the time, but I’ll pick up Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar again in the spirit of GrimDarkTober! Idk if he’d be willing to interview but I’m probably going to ask

4) Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone – a finished paperback I was sent by the publisher and need to get a move on reading. A haunted mansion, gothic, atmospheric, a monstrous boy that spoiler alert, I bet the main character is going to end up kissing … Judging by the fact that it’s YA and at a 3.5 GoodReads rating, I’m trying to stay optimistic

5) Unrelated to anything spooky but I stole a friend’s copy of Starship Troopers and need to return it, so that’ll be on my list. I know the movie had some disturbing scenes so maybe I can put a dark spin on it

6) GrimDarkTober classic edition – Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde was voted my fall classic by the good folks of Twitter. It’s short and I’ll plug it in somewhere.

7) On the same poll, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne came in a close second.  If I don’t end up scaring off the person/people that might buddy read, I’ll get on that too at some point this month

8) The last one on my definitive TBR is a real Grimdark – The Trials of Ashmount by John Palladino.  He is definitely not my super special Halloween interview guest (Is he?  Can we confirm or deny this yet)? Updates when I know


I’m sure I can squeeze in another book or two but that is my definitive October TBR for you guys!  I keep telling Kevin Ansbro that I’m going to read In the Shadow of Time, and I owe St Martins a review for B.A. Paris’ The Prisoner out 11/1  … So we will see how it goes.

Guest Content: I also have guest posts coming from a few other bloggers so stay tuned for reviews of Norylska Groans by Michael R Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder from the amazing Dr John Mauro of Grimdark Magazine, The Worthy by Anna Moss from Jamedi at A Vueltas por los Mundos, and, some other confirmed guest content! Get on the list if you want, there’s plenty of time!

What’s on your October TBR?

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

OK Bye September (Reading Wrapup & General Updates)

Another month went by already? When did that happen?

September was terrible for me in terms of reading.  As far as number of books, page count, and even audiobook listening, this was THE worst reading month I’ve had in four years.  I’m posting this wrap up a day early as I’m probably going adventuring tomorrow and there’s nothing else to say this month, except in no specific order, the following:

1) Books Read: I only finished 7 books. All have been reviewed here and The Blacktongue Thief followed by Foundryside were my two favorites. Not even going to lie that three of those seven were audiobooks and I feel so useless as a reader.

2) On the blog: I also wrote three or four general posts this month, including one about romance in scifi that smashed my record post views to date.  Possibly more on this below. I also outlined some favorite things in my library that didn’t get much love, but that’s ok.  I also only did one Sunday Brunch interview 😭 but I’m trying.  Some good news is that comments and actual interaction are up again!

3) Bookstagram update: The hacker thing ruined me. I lost everything just shy of 10k followers and had the account returned at 0/0/0 content. I didn’t bother changing the username back and just uninstalled the app. It’s probably a good thing but I felt a bit ill about reading and posting for a week or so and am now working on restructuring my thoughts about bookish media in general. It’s created a bit of a reading funk.

That said, the response from the book community was mind blowing, and thank you all.

4) Sept Book Haul: I only bought one book this month (see Asimov wearing a bra), and then my lovely booksta friend sent the history book along with a note, and I might have gotten emotional❤️

I also had the book haul from my contract completion points at work and I spent the whole thing on books. Now I finally own physical copies of some John Gwynne books, and others

IMG_20220914_193144413_HDR

5) So you’d think that being off Bookstagram would give me a lot more time to read but I’ve been working 48-60 hour weeks and it’s been crazy. No time to steal a few pages here and there, heck I’m lucky to have dinner tonight (not though, just writing this).

6) September SPSFC2 update – I am doing OK with the slush pile. So far 10 books down, and I need to put up the second post to start sharing more thoughts as I go. That reading ate up a lot of time earlier this month but it’s been fun

7) Books? Boys? Idk. This one is kind of bookish but it’s more of a SEND HELP situation since I managed to develop an insensible crush on a person that lives across the ocean, which is just flipping great. I’ve got no idea what I’m supposed to do with it but full disclosure, I’m a silly American girl who is powerless against winsome pictures.   Apparently.  Regardless, it’s been interesting to chat and I’m learning a lot about books and other things, which makes this a bookish matter. Someone should probably knock some sense back into me STAT (I’ve got a baseball bat you can use) and now that’s part of my reading wrapup & general update this month.

8) I’m going to post a separate October TBR.  Obviously I can’t host GrimDarkTober and spooky bingo without Bookstagram, so that’s just depressing.  I thought we would have many more years but maybe next year I can make it a thing on Twitter.  I’ve got my yearly super secret Halloween interview lined up though and let’s just say we are planning a wild one 🎃


I guess the good news is that September is (almost) over, spooky season is here, and I’ve got a killer lineup of books to hopefully make October a better reading month! 

How did you do this month? Any great reads? Did anyone else struggle?

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

The October Book Releases Are Everything This Fall

As most of you know, I’ve spent most of the past few years requesting and reading a ton of ARCs across various genres.  I stopped doing that around March and haven’t been paying as much attention to new releases, but October is really a special month as far as some of my favorite authors are putting books out, and others look like true must reads

So let’s look at a few that I’ve either pre ordered, have an ARC, or will at least buy once they show up on Book Outlet for sure


In no specific order (after my most anticipated):

1) Righteous Prey, by John Sandford. Release 10/4

There’s a new John Sandford, and it’s a Davenport & Flowers collaboration! While my quest to reread the series from #1 failed, I am keeping up with the new releases still.  Part of me thinks Sandford should have quit while he was ahead, part of me will always preorder and drop my TBR for anything he writes. I think possibly the only thing my father and I have ever agreed on is that Sandford should have quit at Twisted Prey (a great book) and not introduced the Letty series, or any further Prey books, as there’s really nothing new he can do at this point and we don’t love reading Lucas at this life stage 🤣

2.  The Revolutionary by Stacy Schiff. Release 10/25

While I neither need to nor am particularly interested in reading another book on Sam Adams, I’m interested in the author as a decorated biographer.  I currently use the Mark Puls biography as my Adams recommendation (short, entertaining, fairly unbiased), but I’m always happy to see Revolutionary History being published anew by different voices and would check it out if I saw it at a used price.

3. The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy. Releases 10/25 but I’m waiting for the box set, linked below

Holy shit, Cormac McCarthy hasn’t written anything since he devastated and destroyed everyone with the saddest dystopian ever, The Road, like what 15 years ago? I don’t even care what it’s about and am floored to read his new book, and it’s a duology which is cool.

 

The next two books kind of go together in my mind, even though they are vastly different:

4. Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman. Release 10/18

Umm yeah just sign me up for this. One critic stated that it reads “like a conversation” and just, yeah, just, sign me up 

5. Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard by Tom Felton. ALSO out 10/18

Here’s something you don’t know about me: Tom Felton is actually my favorite cast member of HP because he seems like a riot, supports animal rescues, reads a lot of dirty Slytherin puns, and seems like a generally upstanding individual. Plus swoony accent and generally…. You know, /swoon.  I’m not sure which book is riding which book’s coattails but putting them out together seems like a good move and I’m here for both of them

6. Night Of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra. Release 10/18

I already read and reviewed this one and generally would recommend for YA fantasy fans, it’s a lovely and rich medieval Indian setting and I’m a fan of Mehrotra as far as YA goes 

So those are the six that I’ve already read or am planning on reading this winter!  There are others too like a new John Grisham called The Boys from Biloxi, but I’m not caught up on his works and am content with my back log.  If anyone is still following Maggie Stiefvater and what I affectionately call “The Ronin books”, Greywaren is coming out too which seems to focus on the parents. There’s a new Colleen Hoover (thanks but no thanks) and just so many other new books coming out

Are you excited for any upcoming releases?

 

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews Science Fiction

Sci-fi, Media, Self-Image, Romance, and Modern Day Nerds

I’ve had a couple of conversations with widely various “nerdy” men over the past few weeks that have gotten me thinking about self image, gatekeeping, romance in sci-fi media (books vs. television) and some things that are tangentially related.

Let’s start with the couple that got me thinking about the fact that there isn’t a lot of actual romance in Science Fiction reading – good old Grayson and Halley in the Frontlines (Marko Kloosseries, which I got tired of reviewing book by book but here’s the quote in book four that got me:

“I am so glad for all of this. You, me, us being here, everything that happened to us since Basic. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, Lankies and all. If we end up a frozen cloud of stardust today, I know that I’ve fucking lived.”

My favorite thing about this couple despite the fact that they started in the most eye rolling proximity romance ever, is that they never played games with each other. At least in my experience military men have the emotional competence of your average stone wall, and seeing as most military sci-fi authors are male, it would understandably make romance in this genre difficult to write.  Either way, I think Grayson and Halley are a great example of how some level of romance can work with these stories.

Let’s surf back through the canon to the beginning (ish) – Frankenstein bored me to literal miserable tears but it was, undoubtedly, a romance of a sort, although not what I’m getting at.  I haven’t read enough Victorian era “sci-fi” to comment on the romances there so let’s fast forward to elsewhere.

Another point to start with here is that even with more women writing in sci-fi these days than before, in the days where many women wrote under male pen names and tried to hide a bit, I would have expected more romance to infiltrate the genre. There is some to be found in young adult sci-fi for sure but that’s not a genre I’m too personally interested in.

That said though, men just… it’s like this with men in sci-fi: picture a treehouse with a GIRLS KEEP OUT SIGN nailed to the door?

AND WHAT DO WE GET OUT OF SCI-FI “ROMANCE” BEING A GENRE NOW? LORD HELP US, erotica haha. Oy, alien erotica is not what I’m getting at either and I’m on not on team “hubba hubba”, but team “no thanks”.

Screenshot_20220907-104854

So, we have established that no one wants to read space erotica, or heavy romance in space, but I’m more just talking about healthy relationships. Not to say that women can’t write healthy romance in sci-fi, but, they really don’t. Hello Ms. Octavia Butler, looking at YOU in the Xenogenesis books.

I’m about to embark on a read in October that basically features four dudes on a submarine, which is about where men in the 1800’s were writing sci-fi at.  Another classic sci-fi great, Bradbury, looks at relationships but it’s more in the sense of “how does this function in this society?” Does having reproductive hour at 7pm on Wednesday satisfy marital needs? Yikes, I’m not looking for that either.  He does broadly look at love and the human experience in other stories but I’m looking for specific, healthy, normal examples

Because at the end, I’m going to tie this into modern day romance

Let’s break this line off before it gets weird and touch briefly on how this isn’t necessarily the case in modern day TV and movies – at least on screen, Sci-fi is trying to normalize relationships more.  Look at The Big Bang Theory (2007) – I think a lot of nerds found pieces of themselves in Leonard and Raj, even Sheldon, and guess what? That’s modern day mainstream television featuring the nerdy guy getting the girl! Then girls for the others!

p185554_b_v10_az

I can’t talk about romance on screen either without briefing on the Treks – I read in a Rodenberry biography (no I can’t quote where) that he wanted the characters in TOS and TNG to stay single so that (to paraphrase) they can use alien relationships and pursuits as more storyline fodder, although in DS9 and onwards relationships onscreen became a lot more prominent.  To this day, Trek is working to normalize relationships between different cultures and all other kinds of kinds.

Star Wars is the other huge franchise that everyone wants to talk about – hello yes romance there too, forgetting all the brother and sister stuff but later movies? Yes! I don’t watch a lot of sci-fi on television these days but the point is, between Star Trek, Star Wars, and the Big Bang Theory, modern day nerdy men should have observed some healthy relationships onscreen at some point.

So … let me draw this back into literature before bringing it to a close with my thoughts on romance and modern day nerds.

So back at the end of August I was out with my best friend, and every year I feel like we have the same discussion. Yes, our families are fine as far as we know, yes, we are off to DragonCon soon, Yes, we’re both still single.  This year, the conversation got a little deeper after a few alcohols and I heard an echo of the lament that a lot of “modern day nerds” feel – it’s really freaking hard to relate to people sometimes and be ourselves.

Which started my thoughts in this article – what fuels the modern day nerd’s lack of confidence? Where is the obliviousness still coming from? Is it because of the lack of healthy relationships in the media that they consume? Is it that old treehouse mentality that girls have cooties? Opposite sex anxiety? Most females featured in sci-fi have killer body suits and boobs, so where are the women writers in sci-fi here, and are the men not reading it?

That said though, most of the really, really nerdy sci-fi booktubers and bloggers that I’m friends with are married with kids, so this is a very moot point for many people but there are a sect of us that are pretty single still.  I’d like to hear from people on both sides regarding this!

Let’s look at a chat I had with an author/friend the other night. To paraphrase, we were on discord discussing … uh… let’s say Twitter crushes, close enough.

Me: How dense are male nerds?

Friend: We’re dumb as hell. Not even an argument.

Me: I would argue dense, but y’all are far from dumb, haha fair enough?

Friend: Fair enough. There’s a whole lot of self-image stuff tied up in that obliviousness too, especially for nerds

That’s interesting, because although I think it was said jokingly, I had another male (probable nerd) refer to himself as “not a photogenic lot” recently and the kid is not that bad looking at all. So, anyway, that feeds back into the chat I had with my real life friend about our self image issues, inability to meet people, and lack of confidence – where is it all coming from for this little subsect of nerdism?

From a woman’s perspective, I mean do you know how many men have told me my website is stupid? My library is a waste of money? Even at work I take shit when I roll my sleeves up and be myself, and let’s not even talk about the rodeo/horse world.  I dunno what those dudes do in their down time but 95% of the time it’s not reading 😂 The last date I went on was with a self proclaimed “nerd” back in February and it was like having someone mansplain Walden to me (UM… I’m not stupid but I felt stupid) and whew I’ve been afraid to try since.  Let’s just say that in the subsect of failed dating experiences, “nerds” are up there on my list for a litany of reasons.

So …. Do we need healthy relationships in sci-fi media to help some of us along a little bit? Would it help? Is there a link between literature, onscreen media, and modern day relationships? Is it the feeling of being left behind by a rapidly changing culture?

Tell me all your thoughts, and if you read this emotional vomit, thank you 😂