What’s the Time Mr. Wolfdog? by Stephen J. Willis

Summary

Before the lone wolf’s cry, Tim Connery had been resigned to the fact of a cold Christmas alone. Encompassed by snowy landscapes, the views from his cottage toward the outbound vistas were but another reminder of his desolation.

Deserted by his wife and children, he is forced into the gradual admittance of his betrayal, and in keeping an unspeakable secret that is slowly tearing him apart.

Before long however, Tim suddenly finds himself surrounded by a battalion of desperate and starving dogs that have recently broken free from the nearest pound for illegal and unstable animals. Since being liberated from restraint and subservient only to a vicious pack leader, they will do anything and eat anything to survive – and Tim is no exception to the menu.

The unpredicted appearance of a woman’s dead body however, finally brings Tim to his knees, forcing him to finally confront not only his past and his future, but the very fundamentals of his faith in God. It becomes apparent thereafter that death is no stranger to Tim, when truth is revealed at even the most unexpected of times.

Here, the line between man and beast becomes lost in the overwhelming will to endure and overcome, wherein only the victor will survive to tell the tale.

Overall

This is a shorter read which was a major plus. There are a lot of glossary terms at the end, so the book was shorter then I was anticipating. The writing was easy to read and created many vivid scenes. It did a good job bringing in other senses and setting the eerie feeling. It was gripping and surprising more then a few times. However, some of the surprises didn’t necessarily match up with the blurb ‘unpredictable appearance’ is paper thin. That being said after a slow start and a character I found somewhat annoying, I was sucked in. I had to know what was going to happen to Tim and who of his newly loyal beasts would survive the night. It was gripping at times and down right chilling at others.

This was a horror story with a humanity element that twisted itself around the grotesque scenes like a bow. As with most horror though, once the crisis was averted the story simply ended without wrapping up many aspects of the story. Which speaks to excellent writing because a character I disliked for most of the book, I still invested in knowing what happens to him. What really clenched it for me was by the time he faced the ‘final boss’ I was starting to question how realistic it was and how timid Tim could really accomplish some of that. Beyond that, it was a great horror read for a quiet evening in.

Rating

3.5 Stars (rounded down and up)

Overall this was an okay read that had a lot of great chilling moments and action oriented scenes. A horror with a human angle.

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Technodiversity by Theodore Koukouvitis

Summary

Enter a world where rogue software animates junk to life…

Born on a blasted world where mechanical creatures form spontaneously in the wake of interstellar apocalypse, Rem of the Recycle Canyon must scour laser-lit landscapes for lost knowledge and rip technocreatures apart for scraps of lost technology.

But when she decides to set her first catch free, Rem disturbs the ancient balance between her people and their spacefaring relatives who crave her world’s riches, finding herself in a post-biological world of trouble.

Rem’s defiance against the so-called “gods of hell-space”, and her surprising affection towards her world’s technocreatures, kick off an explosive misadventure that will challenge her convictions and test every skill she doesn’t believe she has.

Will she rise above age-old prejudices, outsmart a computer-god, keep her feelings for a charming but suspicious outsider under control, reach the mythical Hologram Valley and survive its secret?

If so, she might succeed where legendary heroes of old failed and discover the impossible solution to protect her world’s technodiversity… and perhaps even find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Otherwise, she might leave her last breath under a techbeast’s chassis — or worse — find herself banished in hell-space!

Characters

I don’t know where I’m at on Rem, but I for sure liked her better at the end of the novel then I did at the beginning. She was much more redeeming in my mind. I think part of my problem came from the gender switching on the planet, which was interesting but did test what could make sense. It was great at points but tripped me up more than once because it felt almost like she was trying too hard. I actually didn’t realize for a while that the main character was a girl. This was only made worse because her idea of romance was purely physical based and so adding anything else made her seem really shallow. On that note I loved a lot of the supporting characters and my favorite is Sol. What a fun and unpredictable character!

Plot

This book just throws you into the deep end. Thrusting the reader knee deep into the world surrounding Rem. There are actually multiple stories going on within this story. The bigger arcing theme is two parts – one romantic and the other adventure. The Tech learns and it knows. It was full of action and adventure with massive sci-fi overtones and even some humor. The main character is reluctant at first but once she sets her mind to prove she can do it, she jumps in with both feet. A little impulsive? Sure, but also fun!

Overall

Holy world building. This is an intensely immersive world that is well thought out and expertly built. A beautiful shattered world that has advancing tech that is unique and extensive. The flow is a little wonky because some of the chapters are insanely long. While others are quite short and manageable. It was particularly difficult in one of the middle chapters where there was a debate going on in the ‘council’ that seemed to just drag on. It could have been shortened, but thankfully once it wraps up it was the last of its time. Once the second half of the novel starts, it pretty much was page after page because I wanted to know the ending. Let’s just say a lot happens in this book and it keeps you interested.

Biggest complaint is the use of the word ‘badass,’ which was way over done! Gah! To the point of annoying through the second half of the novel.

Rating 

4.5 stars (rounded down)

A stunning sci-fi novel that is an immersive treat! Great world building, a passable main character (thank goodness for Sol!), and a fascinating sci-fi read is worth the time!

Fourteen and a Quarter: Coined Fiction by Serena Ivo

Summary

These fourteen original stories are literary windows into the lives of people who find themselves facing the unexpected, the crazy, and even the paranormal. With diverse personalities and vivid details, this potpourri of dense, unpredictable plots are sure to entertain:

“Tipped”—a man learns that his birth certificate bears a surprising truth, and a perfectly legal, disorienting fabrication.

“Invisibility”—an atheist dies and is challenged by the unanticipated reality of an afterlife.

“Ready, Aim, Shoot”—a photographer meets her long-lost grandmother, who immediately and publicly accuses her of theft.

“Rodent Love”—while on honeymoon, a bride discovers that her groom’s passion for a theme park puts his love for her in the shade.

“Regret”—a demon has an experience that causes it to question its dark role in the world.

These thought-provoking stories and much more tether the reader with subtle, twisting layers that induce careful rereading.

“Fourteen and a Quarter: Coined Fiction” is an edgy, yet clean musing on classic virtues such as prudence, chastity, and sobriety, and illustrates the eternal constitution of the human spirit.

Overall

I’m going to be doing this one a little differently and addressing the short story collection as a whole. Each story is linked by a single element—a quarter. It is the running theme that is mostly used in a very natural and interesting fashion throughout the book. The stories were interesting, easy to read through and follow (with the exception of one). I very much enjoyed the mostly urban feel but the author wasn’t afraid to venture out into supernatural or even fantasy.

What was great was these stories and their settings were like onions. Each layer you peeled back there was more. One or two times I did get completely lost and had to back track which was a bit disruptive, but those were on the more subtle and abstract stories, so part of me believes that was intentional. The characters in broad strokes were very easy to follow and each had their own debate or problem they were working through. Much of them moral or relationship dilemmas that had surprising depth despite the brevity of each story. With each new story, it was always a treat to see where the author took you next.

Rating

4 Stars

This is a solid piece of work that I quickly read through. It was well with the read and felt inspirational to see such diversity from a single author. Overall a charming collection of short stories!

This is a voluntary review.

Fried Brains and Micro Chips by Haze Diamond

Summary

In a future where everyone is constantly connected to the internet by Importal™ chips in their heads, Destry spends a sheltered, isolated life without one, until something goes terribly wrong, and it is up to her and her motely band of unlikely heroes to save the future of humanity.
After the death of her father, Destry’s life remains the same old lazy humdrum existence of compulsive movie watching and getting drunk, all that is afforded to her as she cannot interact with a world that doesn’t see her, and doesn’t want to. Until one fateful day, something goes very wrong with the Importal™ implants, a technological Armageddon, caused by a virus that is destroying the internet and everyone connected to it. Her father, she finds out, feared this might happen and has left her instructions that she must follow to try to put things right. The source of the virus is somewhere in Megacity London and the only way to stop the destruction is to cross the country and get into the city. With everyone else dead or reduced to drooling idiots by the destruction of their Importals™, she is left with little choice but to enlist the aid of her friend Weasel (a paranoid grumpy old Jamaican) and Derek (a mild mannered slightly brain damaged solicitor), to save the day. They leave Spamlington behind, the only home she has ever known, and set out in an old hackney cab on an adventure across the country, into a world she never knew existed.

Characters

Destry is an interesting character. She is the main character with Weasel just as central to the story. Everyone else seems to come and go, which was a very interesting way to story tell. Instead of establishing a group and staying with them, there are two central characters that get other members on the group that come and go as their part of the story comes and goes. Far warning there is fair amount of point of view switches, sometimes multiple times in a chapter. I also think Albert became Alfred for a bit…

Head hopping aside, the biggest issue was the dialogue. It was very difficult to follow, especially at the beginning, because the accents and one of them having a head injury (simplified but good enough). I would sometimes have to read through twice to understand what multiple characters were saying. Although impressive, there were just too many in the beginning all at once. The dynamic of them all at the same time made the read tricky.

Plot

For the first 20% of the book I wasn’t sure what the plot was or even what was going on. I think this may have been due to the subtly of the plot without enough contest or lost among the setting descriptions. All trying to stop a glitch that could bring the human race to their knees. Once it got rolling the plot really took a bizarre but interesting turn. It became amusing in more than a few ways with its feeling of taciturn satire. This is a strange journey that is unique and colorful. For some reason it reminded me of the Fallout games. That being said there were a few minor plot holes that left the novel with the feeling that it needed to be fleshed out more.

I do feel like the author was very passionate about the topics and themes covered in the book. I also could see that they had done their research. However, there was times the story fell away and it became a lecture on topics like ‘humans are killing our planet and turning it into a parking lot’ or ‘humans will reap their own description.’ To the point of it felt very preachy. I actually enjoyed the topics and the themes but it could be smoothed out. Especially because sometimes I couldn’t tie it back to the plot. This isn’t as bad near the end but there are pages of lecture like writing in the beginning and middle that didn’t make for easy reading.

Overall

Fascinating and vivid imagery on the setting without being overtly detailed but following sequence of events very precisely. Master of vocabulary that seems to flow naturally.  However, there were a few confusions of tenses. The author did a wonderful job creating a dystopian future that felt logical and potentially realistic. It was one of the strengths of the novel. The characters that seemed to come and go was also a unique change.

This book had so much potential and so did the author. The writing was wonderful and unique. Although some of the above aspects made it feel long, it was filled with awesome scenes and strange but interesting characters. In short this was a great first try that I feel this author will only improve with each book they write.

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded down)

I would think of this as charmingly bizarre sci-fi. Lots of potential with this author that I imagine will improve with each book.

This is a voluntary review.

Alia Tero by Lull Mengesha and Scott Spotson

Summary:

Alia Tero, a planet cloned from Earth, presents both opportunity and despair for a bewildered young man named Darren Datita, who must deal with its strange rules, evolved from over hundreds of years of experimental society-building designed to enrich everyone. Everyone on Alia Tero must rotate every four months: this means leaving behind current jobs, roommates, lovers, and city of residence, to take on a fresh new life. While readers laugh at the pitfalls as Darren fumbles one new situation after the other, an undercurrent of restlessness—over just who runs Alia Tero—surfaces at unexpected moments.

Characters

This entire story revolves around Darren Datita. The reader follows him through his crazy life, high school forward. Darren is such a haphazard hero. He is rather sweet, although sometimes I couldn’t get a clear idea of what he looked like. I don’t know why this bothered me, but it was like I couldn’t see the full picture. Despite that he was quite amusing and fun! A great story arc where Darren grew and stayed true to the goodness within him. I also like Rachel. Likely because I was seeing her through Darren’s eyes.

Plot

What a unique premise. This felt like a science fiction but an analysis of culture and what a different reality of Earth could look like. If instead of the ‘family’ dynamic it was set up as a continual rotation. Darren gets to experience all of the different types of life but then tries to break/change the rules. He wants the bloodlines to stay together. Although the timeline gets really confusing in the middle. I was really enjoying it right up until the very nonsensical moment when Darren gets transported to Earth. I completely understand why the author did it but for me it cast a shadow across the entire story and undercut its brilliance. Although there were a few scenarios that were a little bizarre and almost unrealistic, it was an enjoyable read.

Overall

As always, the author’s writing is enjoyable and easy to follow. The cheeky story telling and flippant character, made for an overall enjoyable read. Although there was a mention on Santa Claus at one point and I couldn’t help wondering ‘how did Darren know that?’ Also when Darren gets a windfall the people who tell him he is now in a special group that “This has never happened before” and I just thought there was no way. Besides these periodic mishaps, the author weaved an interesting tale. Although a bit long, it was amusing to see Darren working from one system to the other.

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded down)

Overall a unique story with a charming main character that gets a little muddled in the middle. An amusing story!

This is a voluntary review.

Seeking Dr. Magic by Scott Spotson

Summary

Chaos reigns around the world. Strange creatures, accorded the title “Phantom Ninjas” by the media, are leaping off tall buildings and somersaulting back up without any scratch – and then disappear. There follows more spontaneous acts of magic, confounding the world. Who – or what – is responsible? In the middle of the mystery arrives Detective Hetfield, a private investigator just recently released from the FBI due to an on-the-job injury. Hetfield, who arose to fame as a star witness in the murder trial of a beloved actress, uses the media to put forward the theory that a person of extraordinary magical powers is behind all the incidents, and labels him Dr. Magic. Hetfield gets much more than what he bargained for when that powerful being does exist – in the form of a young man long disillusioned with his past – and cruelly takes him up on his offer.

Characters

There are two characters – former Detective Tony Hetfield and “Dr. Magic.” Each of them are very unique and everyone else feels like lifeless blobs that are just filler for the story constructed around these two characters. I really liked the inner strength and determination of Tony. He has to be one of my favorite characters written by this author. “Dr. Magic” has a somewhat tragic story but is an adult that never had to grow up. Very much felt like he had peter pan syndrome—having magic helps…

Plot

This is very much a modern mystery with an urban magic feel. I wouldn’t say this necessarily a fantasy in a traditional sense but it did have that super hero feel and a magical abilities piece. There are lots and lots of layers to this story and the strength if this entire novel rests on its plot. Tony is driven to find the identity of Dr. Magic, but is also very principals—so what happens when the most dangerous person meets in an unstoppable force?

Overall

This book was very easy to read and enjoyable to turn the page to find out what came next. A few twists and turns kept things interesting where I wasn’t 100% sure where the story was going to go. I appreciated that there were a few surprises where I was like “Where is he?” out loud. Any book that can make me do that is good! The downside was the secondary characters. They could have used some development to round out the novel and bring extra depth to the characters. Some were decent but others felt very flat.

In short this is a great plot and okay characters – so overall a good read! I’d recommend this book ahead of most of Spotson’s other books just because I felt this book had the best flow. It was pretty consistent and I never felt bogged down by details or overwhelmed by information coming in. Instead I was able to follow along and just get immersed into the story. I didn’t love the ending, I felt like the author wanted to give more closure and show that these characters were moving in a certain direction, but I actually would have preferred if it ended one chapter earlier. I get why it was done and actually appreciated the open-ended conclusion.

Rating

4 Stars

Overall an enjoyable read that was an easy page turner. If you like mysteries where you are following along as each layer is peeled away this is a great book. If you also like magic, this delivers!

This is a voluntary review.

The Joint of No Return by Tom Sadira

Summary:

Charlie Hong is on the run from both sides of the law.

He’s spent the last year in hiding, cultivating one last hair-brained scheme to escape his troubles: a clandestine marijuana operation. Just as he’s about to cash in, his cash crop is stolen by a bright light appearing in the night sky. After catching a ride with one of his plants, he finds himself thrown into a world far stranger than anything he could have possibly imagined.

Does the stoned stowaway have what it takes to free the Starseed, a massive living spaceship overflowing with bizarre life forms, from the clutches of a mysterious force field trapping it in Earth’s orbit?

Is he up for the challenge of fighting an evil Reptilian race bent on enslaving humanity?

More importantly, before he decides anything, does he have time to light one up?

Characters

Charlie is a pot head. An amusing mess of a person that somehow survives most of his crazy encounters. Like any good pothead Charlie gets munchies and always has a few joints to spare. Most of the book is following Charlie and a few fun supporting characters coming in – the Captain being the biggest chunk. The villains were repulsive and even the good guys existed in shades of gray – an unexpected depth that didn’t go too deep but just enough to give the characters that much needed complexity.

Plot

This is an amusing sci-fi. I would call this a humorous read for sure, like a Space Comedy. I for sure laughed out loud once. It wasn’t necessarily my humor but the author did well to balance between stoner humor and just plain fun. The plot is all around a fun sci-fi adventure and I really enjoyed the creativity of the aliens and the ship. I even liked the Reptilian race and the idea that they are influencing Earth. It all came together nicely and was enjoyable to read from one chapter to another. I won’t say much more as there are a few fun twists and turns – I’ll leave it for you to read!

Overall

An amusing read with just one too many coincidences. I truly question anyone being that lucky. That being said it was easy to read and follow along with, even when it was a little trippy. A fun short read – I appreciated the brevity of the story. Even the somewhat abrupt ending wasn’t annoying it simply felt like one chapter was closing and if I wanted to read more, I needed to pick up the next chapter aka book.

Rating

4 Stars

A fun sci-fi with a stoner in the lead role. This book will make you laugh at least once, but if you are more of a stoner yourself, I have a feeling this one will leave you rolling. All in all, lots of fun!

This is a voluntary review.