Liquid Cool cover

I’m told you’re supposed to start book reviews with something positive. Liquid Cool isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read. It’s not the most offensive, or the most appalling. It isn’t even the most poorly edited. But that’s probably the extent of the positive things I can say about it.

Liquid Cool passes itself off as cyberpunk detective novel, but calling it that is a bit of a stretch. Cruz is a laborer in generically-named Metropolis. He restores cars and does odd jobs, none of which are particularly interesting, or of much interest to him. What Cruz really wants is to be a detective.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Movie poster for Blade Runner 2049

A few weekends ago I finally got around to watching Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited addition to the cyberpunk phenomenon that started with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And I have to say, I’m impressed. 2049 far exceeded its predecessors.

In this review I’ll discuss what I liked and didn’t like about the movie. I’m also going to talk about some disagreements I have with the underlying premises of the original book and film. There will be mild spoilers. If you haven’t watched 2049 yet, I highly recommend you do so! This review will be waiting for you when you get back.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

“Faced with the exhausting task of building mechanical trees that produce the precious oxygen they breathe, the Greenleigh orphan slaves piece together clues about the existence of a possible forbidden paradise beyond The Wall. To find the truth, shatter the illusions, and free the children, Joy must entrust the aid of an unlikely ally who harbors dangerous secrets.”

Christina Rozelle’s The Treemakers has a lot going for it: it’s a story about a group of child slaves attempting to find their way out of captivity. They’re tough and spunky. They’re even likable at times (although my favorite character was Smudge, the mysterious guide the children meet partway through the story.) The world is strange and imaginative, and the author has a knack for thorough descriptions.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Interesting fact: my Favorite Reads of 2018 is one of the most viewed articles on this site. It’s ranked 4th by traffic, behind only articles about Ingram Spark and Kindle Direct Publishing. This surprised me. It also tells me that people really enjoy these end-of-year summaries, and that’s more than enough reason to do another one.

Before we get into the meat of this list, a disclaimer: this isn’t a ranking of books that hit the best seller lists or received a lot of publicity. These are my personal favorites among the books I had the chance to read this year. There are fewer than last year because, unfortunately, the Other Job took a huge bite out of my free time. I haven’t had a chance to do nearly as much reading as I would have liked.

This list covers a range of genres, and many if not all of the authors are indies. (Read indie books! There are a ton of incredible stories out there from indie authors, their books are often more affordable than traditionally published ones, and you’re helping someone fulfill their dreams. What could be better than that?)

A word on how I evaluate books: I’m intrigued by new and unique concepts, subversion of expectations, and genre blending. Bonus points if it makes me laugh. Comparing most of these books to each other would be impossible, so they’re organized alphabetically by title. If you’d like to read more, each heading links to my review of that book.

Now, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2019!

Continue reading “Favorite Reads of 2019”

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Cover of Shadow Born by Martin Frowd

Eight year old Zarynn is an orphan. His parents were killed for committing the unspeakable heresy of worshiping a deity of light, and Zarynn is slated to be ritually stoned to death for manifesting magical abilities of his own when a dark stranger intervenes to save his life.

Rescued by the necromancer Glaraz, Zarynn embarks on an epic journey to escape certain death at the hands of the druids that rule the lands his people call home.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

The Interspecies Poker Tournament by Claire Buss

Chief Thief-Catcher Ned Spinks, along with his rag-tag band of mostly-supernatural fellow Thief-Catchers, have been tasked by the fey community with catching the most dangerous thief of all: a stealer of life.

The murderer has been targeting communities of supernatural creatures one by one, from the brownies to the dryads to the mer folk, and each victim has been killed in the most insulting way possible for their race. The murdered gingerbread man was dunked in milk. The naiad (water nymph) was left on dry land. And the deceased brownie, a race that’s fond of cake and notoriously intolerant of vegetables, was left in a salad bowl. Curiously, the only thing the survivors can seem to agree on is the existence of a suspicious mustache.

Continue reading “Review: The Interspecies Poker Tournament”

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Cover of Dead Inside by Barry J Hutchison

In Dead Inside, deceased detective Dan Deadman’s life takes a darker turn. And that’s saying a lot for a series that started out with Dan hunting a child-snatching serial killer.

The action opens with a car chase and doesn’t slow down much thereafter as Dan, Olly, and Artur investigate stolen children, straying spouses, a series of grizzly ritual murders, and a visitor from the Malwhere more nightmarishly powerful than any they’ve faced before.

It’s also dark– very dark. Although it’s hard to name a favorite chapter of a book this good, mine would probably be when Dan and Ollie find themselves in the Malwhere. Ollie runs into her ‘father,’ the hideously evil entity that kidnapped her as a small child. And Dan… Dan relives his own death.

Continue reading “Review: Dead Inside”

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Cover of Lost Dogs: Last Fight of the Old Hound by Nils Odlund

Lost Dogs is a different kind of fantasy series. Last Fight of the Old Hound follows Roy von Waldenberger, a prize fighter and therianthrope, and much of the story’s conflict is internal. His inner wolf makes him stronger, faster, tougher– but it also fights for control of his mind in times of duress.

The author’s world building and character development are top notch, and I found Roy’s internal conflict incredibly easy to relate to. I love seeing fantasy used as a way to approach real life conflicts, and the author does a superb job of this. The inner wolf is a terrific metaphor, with its instinct-driven approach to life, boundless strength, and absolute unwillingness to compromise.

This is the story of one man’s struggle to reconcile what’s right by his conscience with what’s right for his loved ones and his future. A prize fighter on the cusp of retirement, he has been given a choice between retaining his reputation as an honest man, and ‘falling’ to a new fighter in exchange for the ability to leave with a healthy retirement bonus and his good standing in the business world intact.

This story is more of an afternoon read than a week-long one, but there’s enough world building, conflict, and action packed into Last Fight of the Old Hound for the reader to feel like they got their money’s worth. A gripping and evocative short read, I highly recommend it!

Lost Dogs: Last Fight of the Old Hound is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon.

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Blade Runner movie poster

Blade Runner bears about as much resemblance to the book that inspired it as a box of chicken nuggets does to a live chicken, but in this case that’s probably a good thing. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  was a singularly strange story, puzzling on many levels. (If you’re interested, you can check out my review of Electric Sheep here.)

Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a former Blade Runner (aka, police bounty hunter) who’s been forced back into service to hunt down a group of escaped Nexus 6 androids, now referred to as replicants.

The plot and world-building of Electric Sheep has been pared down significantly in some aspects and completely rewritten in others. No mention is made of the massive nuclear war that made most of Earth uninhabitable, although the off-world colonies remain. Replicants, produced to provide slave labor on the colonies, periodically escape and make their way back to Earth.

Continue reading “Review: Blade Runner”

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep cover

I finally got around to reading Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And although I had no idea what to expect going in, it was still nothing like what I expected.

Rick Deckard is a police bounty hunter, “retiring” escaped androids that pose a vague threat to Earth’s remaining human population. His world is dull and grey, full of despair and the detritus of human lives long gone. Nuclear war has made much of Earth uninhabitable, causing freak mutations and decimating animal populations. Most humans eligible to immigrate to off-world colonies have done so.

While this premise might sound dark, gritty, thrilling, and potentially action packed, –spoiler– this novel is not.

Continue reading “Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •