Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 37: Crossroads by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

Publisher: IDW (Paperback – 15 November 2022)

Series: Usagi Yojimbo – Volume 37

Length: 137 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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The always impressive Stan Sakai presents another outstanding volume in his epic Usagi Yojimbo comic series with the fantastic and fun 37th volume, Crossroads.

I think we can all agree that 2022 has been a rather mixed year; while the world of books has been fruitful as ever, the world at large does seem to be getting crazier and crazier.  However, one thing that is guaranteed to make me happy is the fact that, for the first time since 2003, this year has seen the release of not one but two volumes of the exceptional Usagi Yojimbo comic.  Fans of this blog will know that I love, love, love the Usagi Yojimbo series, and it is easily one of my very favourite comic book series.  Written and drawn by the exceedingly talented Stan Sakai, the Usagi Yojimbo series is set in an alternate version of feudal Japan inhabited by anthropomorphic animals.  The series primarily follows the character of Miyamoto Usagi, a rabbit ronin who travels the land facing all manner of evil, including criminals, monsters, ninja and rival samurai.

Usagi Yojimbo - #22 Cover

Thanks to the compelling narratives, complex characters, and exceptional artwork, the Usagi Yojimbo series has always really appealed to me, and I have always tried to grab the new volume as soon as it is released.  The 36th volume, Tengu War! came out in March, and it was pretty damn epic.  Usually, I would have to wait an entire year to get my next Usagi Yojimbo fix, but Sakai appears to be on a roll, as he released the 37th volume, Crossroads, earlier this month.  Needless to say, I was extremely excited about this, and Crossroads was one of my most anticipated reads for the second half of 2022.  I was very happy when I received my copy of Crossroads, and I ended up reading it literally as soon as I got my hands on it.  I of course loved every second of it, and it proved to be another captivating read that really drew me in with its brilliant artwork and cool stories.

Crossroads is the 37th volume of the Usagi Yojimbo series and the fourth volume that has been released in colour by IDW (other volumes in colour include Bunraku and Other Stories and Homecoming).  Containing issues #22-26 of the IDW run on Usagi Yojimbo, this comic was once again completely written and drawn by Sakai, with Hi-Fi Design doing the colouring.  This latest volume only contains two stories over five issues, but Sakai loads up some fantastic narratives and character work into this instalment.

Usagi Yojimbo - #22 Alternate Cover

The first story in this volume is a lengthy entry titled Ransom, which runs for a full three issues.  Following on closely after the last story in Tengu War!, Yukichi, Ransom sees Usagi travelling the roads of Japan with his newly discovered cousin Yukichi, a gifted samurai who is a little naïve of the way of the world.  However, Yukichi is about to get a crash course in the shadier side of life when, upon arriving a new town, the pair of samurai run into the chaotic thief Kitsune and her apprentice Kiyoko.  Up to her usual tricks, Kitsune has stolen a valuable ledger from the local crime boss that she is planning to ransom back to him.  However, the crime boss’ men soon catch up with them, and when Kiyoko is captured, Usagi, Yukichi and Kitsune must launch a desperate rescue before it is too late.

Usagi Yojimbo - #23 Cover

This is a fantastic and fun starting comic for this volume, and it is one that has a lot of excellent great parts to it.  While the story will be familiar, mainly due to Sakai reusing elements of previous Kitsune stories, such as Kitsune trying to sell a stolen document back to a criminal (as in The Return of Kitsune, in Volume 7: Gen’s Story), this still proved to be a relatively fresh narrative, due to some new characters involved and the eventual story progression.  The story moves at an intense and captivating pace, with the protagonists forced into several complex and extended fight sequences throughout the course of the comic.  At the same time, they face other concerns, as a certain Snitch gets involved to undermine their plans, while a rival samurai starts to rediscover his honour.  Sakai’s depictions of these fights are pretty awesome, and the multiple pages of animalistic samurai battling it out are cool as always, especially in colour.  At the same time, there is a good covering of humour to this story, which makes it very light-hearted, even with the kidnapping and threat for life.  I had a fantastic time getting through this amazing story, and it was another classic Usagi Yojimbo romp featuring the always fun Kitsune.

Usagi Yojimbo - #23 Alternate Cover

Although this story shares similar plot beats with earlier entries, I do think that this one stands apart thanks to Sakai’s excellent character work.  I loved his continued focus on the new character of Yukichi, who has been quite an interesting inclusion to the Usagi Yojimbo series.  Shown as a bit naïve in the ways of the world having spent his entire life inside the rigid confines of a sword school, Yukichi is generally unprepared for the rough life on the road that his cousin has chosen.  As such, watching him interact with the wily and sneaky Kitsune was rather fun, as it put me in mind of Usagi’s initial interactions with the thieving fox, especially as Kitsune and Kiyoko immediately rob him in a very fun scene.  While he does mature a little throughout Ransom, including his constant checking of his purse every time Kitsune touches him, he still has a lot to learn, and I feel that is going to be a recurring theme of the next few stories.  I also quite enjoyed seeing how Usagi interacted with his new companion in this story, and there is a certain protectiveness that was quite touching, and it was great to see Usagi in the mentor role again.  I think that Sakai did a great job with how he featured Yukichi in this story, and I look forward to seeing him interact with some of Usagi’s other outrageous friends in future books.

Uagi Yojimbo - #24 Cover

Aside from Usagi and Yukichi, this was also quite a fun story for established characters Kitsune and Kiyoko, who are once again at their thieving ways.  This fantastic master-and-apprentice thief team is always very entertaining, especially with how they play off the more serious Usagi, and their enjoyable banter with the other characters is always great to see.  This was a very interesting story for both these characters, especially as it continued to showcase the growth of Kiyoko into a master thief, as she is successfully able to change the situation to her own advantage multiple times.  It was also very moving to see how much Kitsune cares for Kiyoko, as she was willing to risk giving up her career to save her (a promise she later recants, but only once Kiyoko is safe).  These two were very humorous, and they always end up being the life of any story they are featured in.  Throw in the curious new character Aoki, the only honourable samurai working for Ransom’s crime lord antagonist, and this excellent story featured an outstanding cast, who really added to the power and impact of this story.  I had a wonderful time reading Ransom, and it ended up being a strong start to this latest volume

Usagi Yojimbo - #24 Alternate Cover

The second story in this volume is the two-issue entry, Crossroads, which the volume is named after.  The Crossroads story sees Usagi and Yukichi once again on the road.  Deciding to take an impromptu shortcut, their road sees them discover the recent massacre of a group of pilgrims.  Determining that the murderers were a group of unsavoury ronin that Usagi and Yukichi passed earlier, the two samurai head back, determined to catch the killers before they strike again.  Their pursuit becomes complicated when, upon reaching a fork in the road, they are unable to determine which way the culprits travelled.  Splitting up, Usagi and Yukichi take a separate path to find the killers, hoping that they will be able to regroup before engaging their foes in battle.  However, while one samurai finds the killers, the other finds something even more dangerous, the dark and soulless Blade of the Gods, Jei.

Whew, now this was an exceptional Usagi Yojimbo entry, and it is easily my favourite of two stories contained in the Crossroads volume.  Sakai tells an intense and captivating tale in this story that really drew me in right away, especially as it starts with a classic Usagi Yojimbo move of the characters choosing a less travelled path only to wind up in trouble.  The initial set up works very well, and the sudden change from light-hearted talk to serious action once the first bodies are found is pretty striking.  The subsequent chase for the killers has some powerful tension to it, especially once the two protagonists are forced the split up.  And that is when the story gets extremely good, as while Usagi finds the culprits and engages them in a brutal fight, Yukichi finds something far more dangerous in Jei and his young ward Keiko.

Usagi Yojimbo - #25 Cover

Now, fans of Usagi Yojimbo will know that Jei is probably the best villain in this entire series, and he has been a wonderful nemesis for Usagi since first appearing in the third volume, The Wanderer’s Road.  A dark and mysterious spear-wielding killer with a unique look and way of speaking, for much of the series Jei has been a constant mystery, with readers unsure if he is an actual demon, a dark warrior of the gods, or just a deluded killer.  While some of that mystery has been revealed, Jei still cuts a fantastically dark figure in Crossroads, especially as it has been several years since his last major appearance, and there was absolutely no warning that he was going to appear in this story until his latest victim was discovered.  His inclusion in this story was just perfect, as you can only watch in horror as the completely unprepared Yukichi runs into Jei and ends up having a lengthy, philosophical conversation with them.  While Yukichi can tell that something is off, he has no idea how much danger he is in, and you spend the entire time worrying that Jei is just about to strike.  Their dark conversation is a real highlight of this entire volume, as not only and you are totally on edge the entire time, but it is quite compelling to see these two very different characters interact.

Usagi Yojimbo - #25 Alternate Cover

The use of this amazing sinister force proved to be a very excellent inclusion from Sakai, and Jei adds so damn much to any story he is involved in.  The rest of the story unfolds in an amazing way, especially as Usagi and Yukichi’s eventual battle with the true antagonists of the story is the best drawn fight in the entire volume.  The teamwork and care shown between the two protagonists is extremely moving, and it was great to see them work together while exhausted to take down a well-written and dangerous group of criminals.  Sakai ends this entire masterful story perfectly, as not only does Jei get another fantastic appearance, doing his trademark laugh, but you also have Yukichi recount his encounter to a horrified Usagi.  Watching the dawning realisation of who Yukichi is talking about appear on Usagi’s face is breathtaking, especially as you can imagine all the dark terror in his heart that his most dangerous opponent is still alive and stalking his loved ones.  That final scene with Usagi naming the dark spearman to an oblivious Yukichi is so damn impressive, and if nothing else, it will ensure that you definitely come back for the next volume, as you will want to see the follow-up to that revelation.  This ended up being such a strong and captivating entry in this volume, and I am so glad that Sakai chose to bring back his very best villain.

Usagi Yojimbo - #26 Cover

As with all of Stan Sakai’s comics, I was once again deeply impressed with the cool artwork contained within Crossroads.  The art in these comics is just absolutely gorgeous and it always works to support the amazing narratives, bringing the fantastic actions of the characters to life in stunning detail.  Not only does he do a wonderful job showcasing the various animal characters throughout the comics, but the various action sequences are so much fun to see, especially as Sakai always manages to capture the movement of the characters, allowing the reader to see how the sword fights would pan out.  However, it’s not just the characters and the action that are great about the artwork; there is also the elaborate backgrounds and surrounding settings that bring all the scenes together.  Nearly every panel has some degree of the unique Japanese setting in it, whether it’s the historical towns filled with people wearing period-appropriate clothing, the beautiful forests and mountains of Japan, or even a busy highway filled with people going about their business.  All this artistic detail brings the reader into the story, and you can really envision this version of Japan filled with these unique characters.  I am also still really loving seeing all the art in colour, which is a relatively new feature of these comics.  While I will always have a soft spot for the monochrome style of the original Usagi Yojimbo comics, the extra colour in the IDW volumes gives these new comics a little more impact, and I enjoy the clearer pictures being produced.  I particularly liked how the colour made Jei look even more sinister in his scenes, and the artwork around this creepy and malevolent character was extremely cool in Crossroads, and I love how much it enhanced his menace.  Sakai continues to produce some epic artwork in this comic, and I loved every single panel in this latest Usagi Yojimbo volume.

Usagi Yojimbo - #26 Alternate Cover

Stan Sakai does it again as his latest volume of the exceptional Usagi Yojimbo series was another instant classic that proved to be an amazing read.  Featuring two great stories, loaded with excellent characters, impressive action, cool artwork and even a few surprises, Crossroads was just epic and I had a fun time getting through it.  This was another easy five-star rating from me, and I am still so ecstatic that I got two volumes in 2022.  Even better, I won’t have much longer to wait for my next Usagi Yojimbo fix, as Sakai has another volume, The Green Dragon, coming out in February.

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Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Summer 2022/23 TBR

Top ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official Top Ten Tuesday topic for this week was around cozy reads, however, I decided to instead move up my quarterly post about the best upcoming books to read (TBR) for the following three months.  This is a regular post I do at the start of each season, and as this Tuesday is just before Summer (Winter for folks in the Northern Hemisphere), this is the ideal time to put this up.

For this list, I have come up with 10 of the most anticipated novels that are coming out between 1 December 2022 and 28 February 2023.  There are quite a few very cool novels set for release in the next few months that I am extremely excited for, including some of my most highly anticipated reads for the end of 2022 and the start of the New Year.  Due to how impressive some of these upcoming books are, it took me a little while to finalise my list but I was eventually able to whittle it down into a Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have primarily used the Australian publication dates to reflect when I will be able to get these awesome novels, and these might be somewhat different to the rest of the world.  I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be pretty incredible reads.

Honourable Mentions:

Three-Edged Sword by Jeff Lindsay – 6 December 2022

Three-Edged Sword Cover

The third book in a super fun heist thriller series by the author of the Dexter novels.  Three-Edged Sword follows on from Just Watch Me and Fool Me Twice and is a guaranteed thrill ride.

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Red Dirt Road by S. R. White – 5 January 2023

Red Dirt Road Cover

One of the more intriguing pieces of Australian fiction in the new year, Red Dirt Road follows on from the outstanding 2021 read, Prisoner, and presents a compelling and unique murder mystery in the Australian bush.

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The Last Kingdom by Steve Berry – 28 February 2023

The Last Kingdom Cover

There is no way that I am going to miss the next Steve Berry book, The Last Kingdom.  The latest entry in Berry’s long-running Cotton Malone series (which has featured such great books as The Malta Exchange, The Warsaw Protocol and The Kaiser’s Web), The Last Kingdom will see Cotton Malone roped into a deep historical conspiracy regarding the Bavarian royal family and sounds pretty damn fantastic.

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City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita – 28 February 2023

City Under One Roof Cover

Iris Yamashita will be bringing in one of the most compelling and highly anticipated debuts of 2023 with her great book, City Under One Roof, which will pit a detective against a mysterious community in Alaska.

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Top Ten List:

Warhammer 40,000: Witchbringer by Steven B. Fischer – 14 December 2022

Warhammer 40,000 - Witchbringer Cover

The first book I need to highlight on this list is the fantastic upcoming Warhammer 40,000 read, Witchbringer by Steven B. Fischer.  Set deep in the battlefields of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Witchbringer will follow an Imperial psyker, a living weapon who is reviled and barely tolerated by the rest of humanity, who is forced to return to her old unit and help them on a deadly mission.  Sure to be extremely exciting, while also diving into the dark side of humanity in the future, Witchbringer sounds extremely awesome and I can’t wait to end my year with another top Warhammer book.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: The Battle of Jedha by George Mann – 3 January 2023

Star Wars - The Battle of Jedha Cover

The new year is already looking pretty good, especially as one of the first books coming out is the fantastic Star Wars: The High Republic audiobook, The Battle of Jedha.  Part of the second phase of the excellent High Republic series, The Battle of Jedha will see an all-out war break out on the planet of Jedha and promises to be one of the more exciting pieces of recent Star Wars fiction, especially when read out by a full cast of talented narrators.

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Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry – 10 January 2023

Son of the Poison Rose Cover

I am exceedingly excited that one of the first books I will be reading in 2023 will be the fantasy epic, Son of the Poison Rose by one of my favourite authors, Jonathan Maberry.  The sequel to Maberry’s exceptional 2022 novel, Kagen the Damned, Son of the Poison Rose will continue the outstanding dark fantasy storyline contained in his first book as a failed royal guard attempts to save the remnants of his fallen kingdom from a dark ruler determined to destroy everything he loves.  Son of the Poison Rose will easily be one of the best books of 2023 and I cannot wait to check it out, especially in its audiobook version narrated by the always epic Ray Porter.

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Downfall by Louise Carey – 10 January 2023

Downfall Cover

I will definitely be grabbing a copy of Downfall by Louise Carey early next year, which sounds extremely awesome.  The final book in Carey’s Inscape series, Downfall will follow on from Inscape (one of my favourite debuts of 2021) and Outcast, and will take the reader back into a technologically controlled dystopian future.  This time the protagonists will have to take down the company they have long served after it uses its insidious technology to take control of everyone they know and love.  I have had an incredible time with this great science fiction series, and I cannot wait to see how it comes to an end, especially after that cool cliff-hanger at the end of Outcast.

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Unnatural History by Jonathan Kellerman – 14 February 2023

Unnatural History Cover

I have been having a lot of fun getting into Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series over the last few years, with such great and compelling murder mystery books as The Wedding Guest, The Museum of Desire, Serpentine and City of the Dead, and I am quite excited to read another one of his books in 2023.  This new book, Unnatural History, will see Kellerman’s compelling protagonists investigate another complex case, this time involving a dead photographer who made a living exploiting homeless people.  I am going to have an amazing time with Unnatural History and it will probably end up being one of the more impressive mystery novels of the new year.

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The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz – 14 February 2023

The Last Orphan Cover

Few spy thriller series have been more impressive in the last few years that Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X books.  Following a former elite government assassin turned vigilante, the Orphan X books form an action-packed and powerful series that I have really grown to love, especially with great entries like Out of the Dark, Into the Fire, Prodigal Son and Dark Horse.  Naturally, I am pretty excited to see how the series continues and I only have to wait until February to find out.  The next book in the series, The Last Orphan, will see the protagonist dragged back into government service and must choose whether to return to his assassin roots or risk the lives of everyone he loves.  This is set to be an extremely moving and exciting entry in the Orphan X series, and I cannot wait to see what will happen to Hurwitz’s brilliant and complex protagonist next.

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The Shadow Casket by Chris Wooding – 16 February 2023

The Shadow Casket Cover

After years of waiting, we are finally going to get a sequel to Chris Wooding’s outstanding fantasy epic, The Ember BladeThe Ember Blade was a particularly impressive fantasy novel that saw a group of desperate freedom fighters steal a legendary blade to inspire their country into rebellion.  The Ember Blade was something very special, and I have been eagerly waiting for the sequel, The Shadow Casket, which is set to feature even more blood, rebellion and heroics.  This is definitely going to be one of the top fantasy books of 2023 and I cannot wait to dive into its elaborate and addictive narrative.

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Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow – 16 February 2023

Dead of Night Cover

Few historical mystery books have more potential than the upcoming Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow.  The sequel to Scarrow’s excellent novel Blackout, Dead of Night will return to wartime Berlin and follow a police detective’s attempt to solve a terrible murder while going up against the corrupt Nazi Government.  I am very excited to see how this amazing mystery unfolds, and I know I am going to have a wonderful time reading this book.

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Burner by Mark Greaney – 21 February 2023

Burner Cover

Mark Greaney returns with another amazing entry in his bestselling Gray Man spy thriller series, which has already featured outstanding reads like The Gray Man, Mission Critical, One Minute Out, Relentless and Sierra Six.  The new book, Burner, will see impressive protagonist Court Gentry, go up against both the CIA and the Russian mafia to try and save a man’s life.  However, he will also have to compete with his love interest, as they try to work out why so many people want their target dead.  I have no doubt that this is going to be another epic novel from Greaney and I look forward to see the next chapter of the incredible Gray Man series unfold.

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Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 38: The Green Dragon by Stan Sakai – 21 February 2023

Usagi Yojimbo - The Green Dragon Cover

The final upcoming book I need to highlight is the next volume in the awesome Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai, The Green DragonUsagi Yojimbo still remains one of my favourite comic series of all time, and I am always extremely eager to get my hands on a new volume as soon as it becomes available.  This next volume will see Usagi and his companions go up against ghosts, ninjas and other dangerous foes, as they continue to journey around their chaotic version of Feudal Japan.  I already know that I am going to love this comic when it comes out, and I am very, very excited to get my hands on it.

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Well, that is the end of my Top Ten list.  I think it turned out pretty well and it does a good job of capturing all my most anticipated books for the next three months.  Each of the above should be extremely epic, and I cannot wait to read each of them soon.  Let me know which of the above you are most excited for and stay tuned for reviews of them in the next few months.  In the meantime, it looks like I have quite a few books to get through soon and they should all be pretty awesome.

WWW Wednesday – 23 November 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Retribution by Sarah Barrie (Trade Paperback)

Retribution Cover

I recently started reading the cool Australian crime thriller, Retribution by Sarah Barrie.  The sequel to Barrie’s 2021 novel, Unforgiven, Retribution is another excellent and powerful Australian thriller that follows a maverick protagonist as she seeks justice and revenge.  I am having an outstanding time with this book and I can’t wait to see how the clever mysteries unfold.  I will probably knock this book off in the next day or so, and it is proving to be quite an amazing read.

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Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer (Audiobook)

Dragon Mage Cover

I am still slowly getting through the lengthy by captivating fantasy novel Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer. A massive and complex fantasy novel from a couple of years ago, Dragon Mage follows two teenagers who are dragged into an interdimensional war and must learn to harness their respective abilities to save the world.  Dragon Mage has a very elaborate and captivating story to it, which does get a little slow at times, so I have been struggling to make a lot of headway with this book.  However, the story is starting to speed up a bit now that I’m the second half and I am hoping to finish this off in the next week.  This is a very impressive fantasy read however, and I am really enjoying getting through it.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow (Trade Paperback)

Death to the Emperor Cover

Another fast-paced and well-written historical fiction novel from one of my favourite authors.  Death to the Emperor takes the readers right into the middle of Boudica’s rebellion, and you will not be able to turn away from the resulting battles.

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Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez (Trade Paperback)

Friends Like These Cover 2

An excellent and extremely captivating young adult thriller.  Friends Like These is a very powerful read from Jennifer Lynn Alvarez that places the reader in the middle of a very realistic teenage situation that gets far too out of hand in some compelling and exciting ways.

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Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 37: Crossroads by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

Another outstanding volume in the always fun Usagi Yojimbo comic series.  Crossroads was another instant classic from Sakai and I had such an incredible time reading it.  Review to follow soon.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Silver Queendom by Dan Kobolt

Silver Queendom Cover

After finishing off Retribution, my plan is to start reading the awesome sounding fantasy book, Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt.  Following a group of rogues who decide to pull off a dangerous heist, Silver Queendom sounds like a very fun and enjoyable read and I can’t wait to see all the resultant betrayals, elaborate plans and fantasy shenanigans.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Cordova

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

If I manage to finish off Dragon Mage in the next week, then the next audiobook on my list to listen to is Convergence by Zoraida Cordova.  The first adult book in the second phase of the Star Wars: The High Republic series, Convergence will set the stage for much of 2023’s Star Wars fiction, and I am pretty excited for that.  Set to follow a new batch of characters as they explore a whole new period of Star Wars history, Convergence is sure to be an exciting and central read, and I can’t wait to see how the next Phase of High Republic fiction will unfold, especially after how good Path of Deceit was.

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That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 22 November 2022

I have been having an absolutely fantastic week for book, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, some of which rank amongst my top books of 2022.  I am extremely keen to check out all of the books below and they should make for some amazing reads.

Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow

Death to the Emperor Cover

The first book I recently received was the latest historical epic from the master of Roman historical fiction, Simon Scarrow, with Death to the Emperor.  The 21st book in his amazing Eagles of the Emperor series (which has previously featured such awesome reads like The Blood of Rome, Traitors of Rome, The Emperor’s Exile and The Honour of Rome), Death to the Emperor puts Scarrow’s long-running protagonists in the middle of Boudica’s rebellion in Britannia.  I have actually already read this amazing book and it proved to be particularly captivating and action-packed.  Review to follow soon.

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Retribution by Sarah Barrie

Retribution Cover

Next up is the outstanding Australian thriller Retribution by Sarah Barrie.  A sequel to Barrie’s dark 2021 read, Unforgiven, Retribution presents several intriguing, interlocked cases that tie into the events of the last book and sees her maverick protagonist once again try to take down the deadly antagonist from Unforgiven. I have already started reading this fantastic novel and I can’t wait to see how the various cases unfold.

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Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 37: Crossroads by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

I was exceedingly happy to receive a copy of the new Usagi Yojimbo volume, Crossroads, this week.  As most readers will know, I am a massive fan of Stan Sakai’s outstanding Usagi Yojimbo comic series, and I was extremely happy that Sakai released a second volume this year.  Crossroads, which I read the second it was delivered, is another amazing read with two epic stories to them.  Loaded with action, incredible artwork and fantastic characters, this was another impressive outing from Sakai that I had a wonderful time reading.

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Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt

Silver Queendom Cover

The next book I was lucky enough to receive is the fantastic and fun fantasy novel, Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt.  I absolutely love the sound of Silver Queendom which sees a scrappy group of conman attempt to pull off an impossible heist to save their skins.  There is nothing about this book’s plot that I do not love, and I am very excited to see how this fantasy heist novel pays off.  I already know I am going to have an awesome time with this book, and I am hoping to check it out next.

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The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett

The Resemblance Cover

I was also lucky enough to receive a copy of a fantastic new debut novel with The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett.  Set in a college town, this book will see a police detective dive into the corrupt world of fraternities and sororities as she attempts to solve a curious murder of a college student run over by someone who looks exactly like him.  This sounds like quite an intriguing read, and I look forward to diving into this elaborate case, which will no doubt provide some interesting insights into the crazy world of elite university students.

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Private Beijing by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy

Private Beijing Cover

I have been getting a few James Patterson books recently, and the latest is the compelling Private Beijing, which Patterson cowrote with Adam Hamdy.  This is the 17th book in Patterson’s The Private series which follows a group of private investigators, and his latest book will see the Beijing office of the agency come under attack, forcing Private’s leader, Jack Morgan, into action.  I haven’t had a chance to check out this series before, but I am very keen to try now, especially as this sounds like quite a fun spy thriller.  I look forward to getting through more of Patterson’s books this year and I am sure I am in for an excellent time with Private Beijing.

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Judgement Day by Mali Waugh

Judgement Day Cover

The final book I received a copy of is the awesome 2023 Australian thriller, Judgement Day, by new author Mali Waugh. The debut novel from Waugh, Judgement Day will see a detective investigate the murder of judge, which will bring her to the dark heart of the local legal system.  I am already quite intrigued by this upcoming novel, and I am very excited to already have a copy of this Australian crime fiction debut.

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Well, that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books with Geographical Terms in the Title

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants are tasked with listing their top books that have geographical terms in the title.  Geographical terms in this case include terms such as mountains, islands, lands, deserts, oceans, valleys and much, much more.  Participants were actually provided a link of hundreds of potential geographical terms on Wikipedia to use as examples to help with the task here, and while I didn’t get some of the more exotic terms, it did help me select a couple of fun books to include.  I did have a bit of a struggle coming up with a full list here, as it turns out a lot of the books I have read didn’t feature geographical terms, but I was eventually able to pull together a descent list in the end.  All the books below are excellent reads and I liked how the authors used these terms in the titles.

Honourable Mentions:

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Cover

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The Lawless Land by Beth Morrison and Boyd Morrison

The Lawless Land Cover

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In a Great Southern Land by Mary-Anne O’Connor

In a Great Southern Land Cover

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Half Moon Lake by Kirsten Alexander

Half Moon Lake Cover

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Top Ten Tuesday:

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 21: The Mother of Mountains by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Volume 20 - The Mother of Mountains Cover

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Streams of Silver by R. A. Salvatore

Streams of Silver Cover

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The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

The Last Continent CoverAmazon     Book Depository

 

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence

The Girl and the Mountain Cover 2

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep Cover

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Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies

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River of Gold by Anthony Riches

River of Gold Cover

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Star Wars: Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith: The Burning Seas by Charles Soule

Darth Vader - The Burning Seas Cover

Amazon

 

Glacier’s Edge by R. A. Salvatore

Glacier's Edge Cover

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The Grove of the Caesars by Lindsey Davis

The Grove of the Caesars Cover

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Well, that’s the end of this list.  As you can see there is some fantastic novels out there that use geographical terms in their titles, and there are some interesting usages throughout fiction.  All the above novels are wonderful and highly recommended reads, and I had an incredible time reading them.  I look forward to potentially revisiting this list in the future and it will be interesting to see what new books will feature these sorts of terms in their titles.  Let me know which books with geographical phrases in the titles you enjoyed the most in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Spring 2022 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official Top Ten Tuesday topic for this week was around books I got for my personal library, however, I decided to instead move up my quarterly post about the best upcoming books to read (TBR) for the following three months.  This is a regular post I do at the start of each season, and as this Tuesday is just before Spring (Autumn for folks in the Northern Hemisphere), this is the ideal time to put this up.

For this list, I have come up with 10 of the most anticipated novels that are coming out between 1 September 2022 and 30 November 2022.  There are quite a few very cool novels set for release in the next few months that I am extremely excited for, including some of my most anticipated books of the year.  Due to how impressive some of these upcoming books are, it took me a little while to finalise my list but I was eventually able to whittle it down into a Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have primarily used the Australian publication dates to reflect when I will be able to get these awesome novels, and these might be somewhat different to the rest of the world.  I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be pretty incredible reads.  I have extremely excited for the next three months as quite a few up these upcoming reads are easily going to be amongst the best books of 2022.

Honourable Mentions:

Falling Sky by Harry Sidebottom – 13 October 2022

Falling Sky Cover

An epic adventure from one of the best current authors of historical fiction, Harry Sidebottom.  Set to bring back his best protagonist for a ton of historical action and intrigue in the Alps, Falling Sky is going to be a lot of fun and I cannot wait to read it.

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The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham – 18 October 2022

The Boys from Biloxi Cover

After having a fantastic time with Grisham’s latest legal thrillers, The Judge’s List and Sparring Partners, I am quite keen to read something else from this iconic crime fiction author.  Luckily his new book, The Boys from Biloxi, sounds very impressive and I know I am going to have a blast getting through it.

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Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – 1 November 2022

Friends Like These Cover 2

Last year, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez greatly impressed me her first young adult thriller, Lies Like Wildfire, which ended up being one of the best debuts of 2021.  I loved the complex and clever story that Alvarez featured in Lies Like Wildfire, and it looks like she’s set to continue her awesome young adult thriller ways with the upcoming Friends Like These, which explore the deadly consequences of a drunken party.

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Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow – 8 November 2022

Death to the Emperor Cover

I will of course be grabbing the latest historical fiction epic from one of my favourite authors, Simon Scarrow, when it comes out in November.  Scarrow’s last few books have all been very exciting and I cannot wait to read Death to the Emperor when it comes out, especially as it sets his long-running Roman protagonists against a massed rebellion in Britain.

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Top Ten List:

Fairy Tale by Stephen King – 6 September 2022

Fairy Tale Cover

First on this list is the upcoming fantasy novel from legendary author Stephen King, Fairy Tale.  I have been deeply enjoying King’s last few books, such as the fantastic Later and the epic Billy Summers, and I am very keen to see King dive into a dark fantasy novel.  Set around a young boy who finds himself drawn into a dark realm of fairies and magic, Fairy Tale promises to be an exceptional read, and I know I am going to have a blast with it.

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Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 13 September 2022

Nona the Ninth Cover

Since her impressive debut in 2019 with Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir has been one of the most intriguing science fiction authors out there.  Not only was her first book a ton of fun with its dark story around a group of space-faring necromancers, but her sequel, Harrow the Ninth, was a truly exceptional read that ended up being one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020.  I am exceedingly excited to see what happens in the third book, Nona the Ninth, and it looks let to continue the fantastic body-swapping antics of the previous two novels.  Nona the Ninth is likely to be one of the best and most distinctive science fiction reads of 2022, and I am very excited for it as a result.

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Oath of Loyalty by Kyle Mills – 13 September 2022

Oath of Loyalty Cover

There are some excellent long-running spy thriller series at there now, but one of my favourites is the action-packed Mitch Rapp novels.  Originally written by Vince Flynn, the Mitch Rapp novels follow the titular spy and assassin as he lays waste to America’s enemies around the world.  The last several novels, such as Red War, Lethal Agent, Total Power, and Enemy at the Gates, have been written by Kyle Mills and feature some amazing narratives to them.  I have been having an outstanding time getting through this series recently, and the next novel, Oath of Loyalty, looks set to be another awesome read.  Oath of Loyalty will continue the feud between Rapp and the new US president and will force Rapp to defend his family when they are sold out to a deadly and unstoppable group of assassins.  I love the sound of this epic read and I know I am going to have an amazing time with it.

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The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman – 15 September 2022

The Bullet That Missed Cover

There was no way I can possibly exclude the upcoming Richard Osman novel, The Bullet that Missed, from this list.  The third book in the Thursday Murder Club, which follows on from the exceptional The Thursday Murder Club (one of the best debuts of 2020) and The Man Who Died Twice (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2021), The Bullet that Missed will bring back Osman’s fun group of crime solving senior citizens and set them on a new case.  I love the sound of this amazing book and I can’t wait to start reading it.

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The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik – 20 September 2022

The Golden Enclaves Cover Better

Easily one of my most anticipated books coming out in the next few months is The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik.  The third and final book in Novik’s exquisite and epic Scholomance trilogy, The Golden Enclaves will finally provide some closure to readers following the impressive first two novels, A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.  Both books have had perfect, dark magical school narratives, and I have had such an incredible time reading them.  However, I have been dying to check out The Golden Enclaves for a year now, especially after that brutal cliff-hanger at the end of The Last Graduate, and I am just going to absorb this book the moment I get my hands on it.

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Khaos by Jeremy Robinson – 18 October 2022

Khaos Cover

I have no doubt that one of the most exciting and action-packed novels of the next three months is going to be Khaos by Jeremy Robinson.  Following on from Robinson’s fantastic and fun novels, Tribe, The Dark, and Mind Bullet, Khaos will set three groups of Robinson’s protagonists on a joint mission to Hades to free the gods and titans for an upcoming war.  This book has so much damn potential and I can’t wait to see what chaos happens in Khaos.

Amazon

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Crossroads by Stan Sakai – 25 October 2022

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

After already being blessed with one volume of the incredible Usagi Yojimbo comic series this year with Tengu War!, I am exceeding happy that we are getting another volume with CrossroadsCrossroads looks set to enthrall readers with several great new stories, and I am very excited to see how Sakai continues his iconic comics.  There is a very good reason why this is one of my favourite comic series of all time, and I cannot wait to get another volume extremely soon.

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The Voyage of the Forgotten by Nick Martell – 3 November 2022

The Voyage of the Forgotten Cover

Another epic trilogy that is coming to an end in the next few months is Nick Martell’s Legacy of the Mercenary King series with the third and final book, The Voyage of the Forgotten.  I have been absolutely and incredibly impressed with Martell’s first two novels, The Kingdom of Liars and The Two-Faced Queen, both of which have been exceptional five-star reads.  I am extremely excited for the final book, and I cannot wait to see how Martell will wrap up the multiple complex and captivating storylines.  There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that The Voyage of the Forgotten is going to be one of the top books of the year and it is going to be something truly epic.

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Desert Star by Michael Connelly – 8 November 2022

Desert Star Cover

Another must-read I must include on this list is the next book from acclaimed crime-fiction author Michael Connelly.  His new book, Desert Star, is the latest entry in his Ballard of Bosch series, which has already featured three amazing reads, Dark Sacred Night, The Night Fire and The Dark Hours.  This new book sets the great protagonists on another intriguing case, and I look forward to seeing how Connelly sets out his new great mystery.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Cordova – 15 November 2022

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

The final book I want to highlight on this list is the new upcoming Star Wars novel, Convergence by Zoraida Cordova.  Convergence is part of The High Republic sub-series and will set up the entire next phase of the High Republic.  This new phase serves as a prequel to the previous High Republic novels, and I am very curious to see how everything ties together.  This should be a very awesome Star Wars novel and I am sure I am going to have a lot of fun reading it.

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Well, that is the end of my Top Ten list.  I think it turned out pretty well and it does a good job of capturing all my most anticipated books for the next three months.  Each of the above should be extremely epic, and I cannot wait to read each of them soon.  Let me know which of the above you are most excited for and stay tuned for reviews of them in the next few months.  In the meantime, it looks like I have quite a few books to get through soon and they should all be pretty awesome.

Top Ten Tuesday – Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the Second Half of 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants need to list their top anticipated releases for the second half of 2022.

2022 has so far been a pretty amazing year for books, with some outstanding and impressive novels coming out and blowing me away.  However, the year is far from over and there are so many incredible and epic-sounding novels set for release in the second half of 2022.  To fill out this list I have scoured my list of anticipated upcoming releases and tried to work out which of the books coming out between the start of July and the end of December I am most looking forward to.

This proved to be a rather hard list to finalise, mainly because of how many awesome novels are coming out in the next six months.  I honestly had enough awesome upcoming novels on my radar to turn this into a Top 20, but I decided instead to make some hard decisions, and I ended up cutting out several impressive upcoming releases, leaving me with a list mostly featuring books from some of my favourite authors.  Despite this, I am rather happy with the eventual choices that I made, and I think that this list reflects which upcoming novels I am going to have the most fun reading.  Due to how much potential that I think the entries on this list have, several have previously appeared in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday articles, as well as on my recent Winter TBR list.   So let us get to my selections and find out which upcoming novels are my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2022.

Honourable Mentions:

The Accomplice by Steve Cavanagh – 21 July 2022

The Accomplice Cover

 

Oath of Loyalty by Kyle Mills (based on the books by Vince Flynn) – 13 September 2022

Oath of Loyalty Cover

 

Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – 1 November 2022

Friends Like These Cover

 

Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow – 8 November 2022

Death to the Emperor Cover

List (by release date):

Upgrade by Blake Crouch – 12 July 2022

Upgrade Cover

An awesome sounding new science fiction thriller from the exceedingly talented Blake Crouch, this is sure to be an incredible read.

 

Glacier’s Edge by R. A. Salvatore – 9 August 2022

Glacier's Edge Cover

One of my all-time favourite authors, R. A. Salvatore, returns soon with another entry in his long-running Drizzt Do’Urden series.  This new upcoming novel will serve as a sequel to his 2021 novel, Starlight Enclave, and sounds like another fantastic adventure novel.

 

Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 13 September 2022

Nona the Ninth Cover

I am very excited to see that captivating science fiction talent, Tamysn Muir, will continue her impressive, space-necromancer-centric, The Locked Tomb series later this year with Nona the Ninth.  Following on from the highly entertaining Gideon the Ninth (one of my favourite debuts of 2019) and the incredible Harrow the Ninth (one of my favourite book and audiobooks of 2020), Nona the Ninth has a ton of potential and I cannot wait to see how this trippy series continues.

 

The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman – 15 September 2022

The Bullet That Missed Cover

There was no way that I was not going to include the latest entry in the hilarious and clever Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman on this list.  The sequel to The Thursday Murder Club (one of the best debuts of 2020) and The Man Who Died Twice (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021), The Bullet that Missed looks set to bring back the titular team of retirees as they solve new murders around their retirement village.  Easily going to be one of the funniest and most addictive reads of the year, I am very excited for more of Osman’s entertaining hijinks.

 

The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik – 20 September 2022

The Golden Enclaves Cover Better

There are few upcoming books that I am more excited to read than The Golden Enclaves, the third and final book in Naomi Novik’s epic The Scholomance series.  Novik has really killed it with the first two books in this series, A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate, which followed a destructively gifted magical student as she tries to survive the deadliest magical school around.  These first two books were both incredible reads, and I am very, very keen to see how this series ends in The Golden Enclaves, especially after the massive cliff-hanger Novik left The Last Graduate on.  I have no doubt that this will live up to my extremely high expectations and this should prove to be pure and unadulterated awesomeness.

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Cordova – 4 October 2022

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

I have been really enjoying the recent High Republic sub-series of Star Wars extended fiction, especially the main novels (Light of the Jedi, The Rising Storm and The Fallen Star), and whole new phase of The High Republic is about to start later this year.  While I am a little hesitant about the massive backwards time-skip (the entire second phase is set a substantial time before the first High Republic phase), I am very curious to see what sort of story is set out in the Convergence by Zoraida Cordova, which will set the tone for this second phase.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Crossroads by Stan Sakai – 11 October 2022

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

I am extremely happy to be getting another volume in one of my favourite comic book series, the Usagi Yojimbo comics, later this year with the upcoming volume Crossroads.  This will be the second Usagi Yojimbo volume coming out this year (see my review for Tengu War!) and I am so very happy to get more Usagi action and excitement this year.  I already know this is going to be a brilliant comic, and Crossroads will no doubt contain more impressive stories and eye-catching artwork.

 

The Voyage of the Forgotten by Nick Martell – 3 November 2022

The Voyage of the Forgotten Cover

Another deeply impressive fantasy series ending this year is Nick Martell’s The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings series, which finishes off with The Voyage of the Forgotten in a few months’ time.  I have had such a brilliant time with this series, as both The Kingdom of Liars and The Two-Faced Queens have been truly epic and captivating reads with intense and complex stories.  As such, I am extremely eager to read The Voyage of the Forgotten to find out how everything is going to end.  While I am a little sad that this series will only contain three novels, I know that this finale is going to be an exceptional novel that will easily top my best of 2022 lists.

 

Desert Star by Michael Connelly – 8 November 2022

Desert Star Cover

I have been having a ton of fun with Michael Connelly’s spectacular crime fiction novels lately and I am very excited to get another Ballard and Bosch book in a few months’ time with Desert Star.  Following on from such great novels as Dark Sacred Night, The Night Fire and The Dark Hours, this upcoming book has an impressive sounding story to it and I am very excited to get involved in another powerful Connelly mystery.

 

City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky – 8 December 2022

City of Last Chances Cover

The final book on this list is the highly compelling City of Last Chances by bestselling author Adrian Tchaikovsky.  Set in a rebellious magical city, City of Last Chances sounds like an extremely cool and intriguing fantasy novel, and I am very curious to read more from this highly regarded author, especially after having a great time reading his Warhammer 40,000 debut, Day of Ascension, earlier this year.  I look forward to seeing what amazing fantasy epic Tchaikovsky has planned for City of Last Chances, and I am sure it will end up being extremely great.

 

 

That is the end of this list.  I am extremely happy with how my latest Top Ten Tuesday article turned out, and this list contains an intriguing collection of upcoming books that should prove to be incredible reads.  I think that every one of the books I mentioned above has some amazing potential, and most, if not all, will probably end up with a full five-star rating from me.  I cannot wait to see what awesome and exciting stories the entries on this list contain, and I think that I am going to have an incredible time in the second half of 2022.  While I am waiting to get my hands on these books, why not let me know if any of the above interest you and let me know what your most anticipated releases for the next six months are in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books from the First Half of 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday involved listing your favourite upcoming books for Winter 2022.  However, as I had already done this list a few weeks ago, I thought I would instead take this opportunity to celebrate the fact that we are already nearly into the second half of 2022.

2022 has already proven to be a pretty fantastic year for books, and I have already read some incredible 2022 releases, including impressive standalone books, amazing new entries in established series and fantastic debuts.  Because of this, I thought that I would take the time to work out what my top ten favourite books from the first half of 2022 were.  To be eligible, a book had to be released in the first half of this year in some form.  I have also excluded any books released during this period that I have not so far read, although a couple of releases I have my eye on might have appeared on this list if I had read them in time.

Coming up with this list proved to be a rather bigger task than I originally intended, as I ended up amassing nearly 20 different releases, all of which I consider to be some pretty outstanding reads.  I ended up being able to eventually whittle this down to an acceptable Top Ten list, although I did include my typical generous honourable mentions section.  I am rather happy with how this list turned out, although I am surprised at some of the great recent books that ended up being excluded.  Still, the entries below represent what I considered to be some of the best books from the first half of 2022, and I would strongly recommend each and every one of them. 

Honourable Mentions:

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone Cover

A clever and hilarious take on the classic murder mystery story from a talented Australian crime fiction author.

 

Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner

Her Perfect Twin Cover

An impressive debut by Sarah Bonner that imagines a woman murdering her twin and impersonating her.  Featuring a very twisty story that goes in some surprising, but fantastic directions, this was a very awesome read that sets Bonner up as an amazing new talent.

 

Warhammer 40,000: Steel Tread by Andy Clarke

Steel Tread Cover

A captivating and powerful Warhammer 40,000 tie-in novel from the start of the year that was an excellent piece of sci-fi military fiction.  Following the crew of the tank, Steel Tread, on a hellscape of a battlefield, this was an intense and action-packed story that I quickly flew through.

 

Master of Furies by Raymond E. Feist

Master of Furies Cover

Raymond E. Feist finalised The Firemane Saga (previously featuring King of Ashes and Queen of Storms) in a big way this year.  This was a great read that featured an addictive classic fantasy adventure with some very interesting surprise elements.

List (no particular order):

The Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Hunger of the Gods Cover

Let us start this list off with the book that has the best cover, The Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne.  Following on from Gwynne’s epic 2021 novel, The Shadow of the Gods (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021), The Hunger of the Gods perfectly continues the dark fantasy masterpiece, pitting men, gods and monsters against each other in a brutal, Norse-inspired fantasy world.  Featuring some outstanding new character perspectives, a bunch of great twists, and a ton of action, this sequel was a worthy addition to this fantastic series, and I had such an incredible time reading it.

 

Desperate Undertaking by Lindsey Davis

Desperate Undertaking Cover 2

One of my favourite historical fiction authors, Lindsey Davis, continues to shine with her long-running Flavia Albia historical murder mystery series.  This latest entry, Desperate Undertaking, features a complex and entertaining new mystery in ancient Rome when a troupe of actors start getting murdered in brutal, theatrical ways.  Easily one of Davis’ best stories, Desperate Undertaking grabs your attention right off the bat and refuses to let go.

 

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K. J. Parker

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World Cover

One of the very first novels that I read in 2022 ended up being one of the very best: the hilarious fantasy novel, A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K. J. Parker.  Set in the same universe as his previous connected releases, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City and How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, A Practical Guide to Conquering the World follows a scribe and translator who uses his scholarly knowledge and skills at manipulation to conquer the entire world.  Containing whip-sharp satire and a brilliant story, this was such an addictive and fun read I honestly could not put down.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Tengu War! by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Tengu War!

My love affair with one of my favourite comics, Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo series, continued this year with the latest volume, Tengu War!  Containing several epic new stories, loaded with cool art and impressive world building, Tengu War! was another amazing volume that got a full five-star rating from me.  I loved this new volume so much and I can’t wait to get my hands on Sakai’s next release, Crossroads, later this year.

 

Sierra Six by Mark Greaney

Sierra Six Cover

Bestselling thriller author, Mark Greaney, is having a great year in 2022, with both the upcoming film adaptation of his debut novel, The Gray Man, and two awesome books coming out.  The first of these, Sierra Six, is one of his best, following iconic protagonist, Court Gentry, the infamous Gray Man, on another intense mission connected to one of his earliest assignments for the CIA.  I had a brilliant time with this new Gray Man novel (the 11th in the series), as it featured an impressive, split-time narrative with some great characters.  Another impressive book from Greaney that is really worth reading. 

 

Against All Gods by Miles Cameron

Against all Gods Cover

The always inventive Miles Cameron continues to shine brightly with a bold and compelling start to a new fantasy series with Against All Gods.  Set in a bronze-age inspired setting, Against All Gods follows a group of mortals who attempt the impossible and declare war on their violent and selfish gods.  With an addictive, over-the-top story, Against All Gods was a ton of fun, and it ended up being a truly amazing novel.

 

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer

The German Wife Cover

Last year Australian author, Kelly Rimmer, produced a very impressive and extremely moving historical drama, The Warsaw Orphan, which really stuck with me.  As such, I was very excited to receive her new book, The German Wife, which ended up being a truly incredible read.  This fantastic novel follows two intriguing protagonists up to the 1950s as they traverse some of the worst parts of world history.  With a particularly intense focus on the rise of Nazism in Germany and the subsequent recruitment of German rocket scientists by the Americans, The German Wife is a captivating read that contains powerful emotional hit after powerful emotional hit.

 

Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch

Amongst our Weapons Cover

One of the leading authors of urban fantasy fiction, Ben Aaronovitch, returned with another superb entry in his Rivers of London series.  Featuring another exceptional fusion of a police procedural story with unique fantasy elements, Amongst our Weapons was a fantastic addition to the series.  Slick, clever and constantly entertaining, Amongst our Weapons once again showed off Aaronovitch’s talent and is an outstanding book to check out.

 

Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh! By Nate Crowley

Ghazghkull Thraka - Prophet of the Waaagh! Cover

I have been having so much fun reading Warhammer fiction over the last few years, and 2022 has already produced some amazing reads.  My favourite of this year so far had to be Nate Crowley’s outrageous and amusing Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!  Following the most iconic ork in the Warhammer canon, this was an excellent retelling of Ghazghkull Thraka’s life from a unique source.  Filled with non-stop laughs, explosive action, and a real appreciation for the ork faction, this was a wildly appealing book that I had to feature here.

 

Death of the Black Widow by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

Death of the Black Widow Cover

The final novel I want to highlight is Death of the Black Widow, written by the superstar team of James Patterson and J. D. Barker.  A crime thriller with an intriguing horror twist, Death of the Black Widow was a surprising hit for me, and I really was drawn into its terrific story.  One of the more memorable and enjoyable books I have so far read this year, I had a lot of fun with Death of the Black Widow, and I deeply enjoyed its compelling tale of obsession, mystery and death.

 

 

I have already read some amazing and epic books so far in 2022 and we are only halfway through the year.  I am pretty happy with how this list turned out, and it features some extraordinary reads that all come highly recommended.  It will be interesting to see which of these books ends up being amongst my top reads of 2022, as there is some impressive competition coming out in the second half of the year, not to mention some outstanding current releases I need to check out.  Still, all the novels above come very highly recommended, and you are guaranteed to have a wonderful time reading them.  Let me know what your favourite releases for the first half of the year are in the comments below, as well as which of the above books you liked the most.

Waiting on Wednesday – Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 37: Crossroads by Stan Sakai

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this latest Waiting on Wednesday I check out another awesome entry in one of my favourite comic series with the upcoming 37th volume of the always impressive Usagi Yojimbo series, Crossroads, by Stan Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

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I must be doing something right with my life because I have just been rewarded with an absolute treat: two Usagi Yojimbo volumes in a single year.  For ages, fans of the series have been stuck with the ungodly pain of routinely having to wait an entire year to get a new collected edition of their favourite comic.  However, it looks like we are getting a reprieve this year as not only did we already get the awesome 36th volume, Tengu War! but now we have the 37th volume, Crossroads, coming out in just a few months.

Many readers of my blog will be familiar with my own all-consuming love for the brilliant Usagi Yojimbo series by legendary writer and author Stan Sakai.  Following a rabbit ronin in an alternate version of Feudal Japan populated by anthropomorphic animals, the Usagi Yojimbo series boasts some outstanding stories, great characters, truly awesome artwork and intriguing Japanese settings, and is easily one of the best, if somewhat underappreciated, comics out there.  I have been a major fan of this series for year, and I have been having a very good time with the current run of the comics published by IDW.  This latest run, which includes the full colour volumes Bunraku and Other Stories (one of my favourite books of 2020) and Homecoming (one of my favourite books of 2021), has been pretty awesome, and I have deeply appreciated some of the cool storylines Sakai has been following.  The other volume of 2022, Tengu War! was also a ton of fun, and was honestly prepared for that to be my primary Usagi Yojimbo fix for the year.  Luckily, with Crossroads coming out soon, I do not have that much longer to wait.

Crossroads, which will contain issues #22-28 of the current run of the Usagi Yojimbo series, is currently set for release in October 2022 and looks set to feature several fantastic stories.  This time Usagi and his newly discovered cousin and fellow samurai, Yukichi, will encounter several dangerous enemies, as well as some old friends, as they continue their travels through the dangerous lands of Feudal Japan.  It looks like Sakai has set up some brilliant stories for this next volume, and I am already extremely excited for all of them.

Synopsis:

The rabbit ronin’s newest adventures continue in this fourth volume that sees Usagi and new companion Yukichi on the road! Thinking their troubles behind them, they find new ones constantly emerging.

In “Ransom,” Usagi and Yukichi meet up with Kitsune, a street performer and thief, who has stolen a ledger recording bribes to local politicians. When Kitsune’s protégé is kidnapped in return, Usagi decides that he must help and get her back. Then, in “Crossroads,” Usagi and Yukichi come upon a group of pilgrims who have been left for dead by a band of cutthroat ronin. Deciding to go after them, Usagi must head back to the province, and the danger, from which he has just escaped!

In “Ghost Story,” Usagi and Yukichi meet Shizuye praying at a shrine to a young woman murdered 50 years earlier by her married lover and who finds herself in the same predicament. They take it upon themselves to be her protectors, but not all is as it seems when a local priest warns them to beware of ghosts!

In the final story, “The Long Road,” Usagi and Yukichi come to the rescue of a famed art dealer and his assistant attacked by bandits on the road. Failing to save the art dealer, they take it upon themselves to complete the delivery, but can the assistant be trusted?

Wow, those are some awesome-sounding stories in Crossroads and I am already in love with all four of them.  Crossroads looks set to have a pretty interesting mixture of storylines, with the most fun one likely to be the Kitsune focused entry, Ransom.  Kitsune, a foxy thief with a propensity for getting into trouble, is always really good fun, especially as her thieving ways often clash with Usagi’s inherent honesty, and it has been a while since we’ve seen her.  I look forward to watching this reunion unfold, and it will be great to see how she interacts with the more naïve and inexperienced Yukichi, as he’ll never know what hit him.  The next story, Crossroads, looks like it will be a more action-orientated romp, especially as the two samurai protagonists are following a band of murderous bandits into dangerous territory.  This sort of tale is Sakai’s bread and butter, so you already know it is going to be pure excitement with a ton of awesome battles, plus it will continue some of the storylines from the last two volumes, with Usagi forced to transverse territory controlled by series antagonist Lord Hikiji.

The other two stories in Crossroads also have a ton of potential and I was very intrigued by the fantastic synopsis that featured above.  The first of these, Ghost Story, appears to be another intriguing tale of Japanese mythology and spirituality, as Usagi and Yukichi encounter a young girl at a mystical shrine.  From the synopsis, it would appear that this mysterious lady would be some incarnation of the murdered woman the shrine is dedicated to, although I have a feeling there might be a twist or two added in.  No matter what, though, Sakai is very good when it comes to the more mystical stories in the Usagi Yojimbo series, and I am sure it will be a thoughtful and thrilling piece.  The final story sees Usagi get involved in another escort mission, this time around some valuable art.  Again, this is a pretty typical sort of story for Sakai (Usagi escorts everyone and everything along the roads of Japan, including melting ice, treasures, legendary swords and even some valuable tatami mats, just to name a few examples), so I am certain that this will be another great story.  The hints about the untrustworthy assistant are interesting, and I imagine that will add some wrinkles to the story, especially if that line is a red herring.  No matter what though, I am sure it will be great, and contain all the samurai action I crave.

Look, let’s be honest here, there is no way I am going to dislike Crossroads when it comes out, mainly due to how good every other single Usagi Yojimbo comic has ever been.  All the above stories sound extremely fun, and most of them have already gotten my imagination pumping as I try to figure out how they will go.  I am particularly interested in seeing how new protagonist Yukichi turns out, and it will be fun to see what Sakai has planned for him.  With Sakai’s usual brilliant storytelling and exquisite artwork, I already know that Crossroads is easily going to be one of the best comics of 2022.  October cannot come soon enough in my opinion, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the latest Usagi Yojimbo volume.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books With a Unit of Time in the Title

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants are required to list their favourite books with a unit of time in the title, such as seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons, years, centuries, eternity, etc. 

This was a rather interesting list topic in the same vein as several other recent lists I’ve done that containing certain types of words in the title including colours, adjectives, character names and numbers.  I usually have a pretty easy time pulling these lists together as I have read a bunch of books with these items in the titles.  However, I really struggled with this list as it turns out authors use units of time a lot less in titles than you’d expect.  I was barely able to find a full 10 items for this specific list and that was after I extended my criteria to include seasons (I originally wasn’t planning to feature them).  Still, I was eventually able to get a descent list together, even though it lacks my customary honourable mentions section.  I am pretty happy with how it all came together so let us see what books I was able to scrounge together.

Top Ten Tuesday:

Day of the Caesars by Simon Scarrow

Day of the Caesars Cover

 

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

The Dark Hours Cover 2

 

One Minute Out by Mark Greaney

One Minute Out Cover

 

The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden

The Third Day, the Frost Cover

 

The Last Hour by Harry Sidebottom

The Last Hour Cover

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Seasons by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo Seasons

 

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace Year Cover

 

The Last Second by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison

The Last Second Cover

 

Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

Season of Storms Cover

 

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

Edge of Eternity Cover

 

 

Well that’s the end of this list.  As you can see, even with the apparent scarcity of appropriately titled books, there are still a few good reads out there that feature a unit of time in the title.  All 10 entries above are pretty fun reads and are worth checking out in their own way.  Let me know which of the above books you enjoyed in the comments below and I will be interested in hearing about your favourite books with units of time in the title.