Book Reviews

I’ve gotten some pretty good book reviews for my book, The Wizard and the Rat. Here are some review snippets from Amazon. After reading them, perhaps you’ll be tempted to buy a copy for yourself.

Click on any review below to see the rest of what the reviewer had to say.


The Wizard and the Rat is a great read. It’s gritty without being grimdark, features an openly gay protagonist who is in no way a “chosen one,” and brings up hard questions about what life in a fantasy universe would be like, without relying on tired tropes or easy squalor. In short, it is the kind of fantasy I’m always saying I wished more people would write. I look forward to more work from this author.


Rat is the ultimate underdog, a young man who has been disowned by his family and must struggle to survive in a brutal world where might is right and only the most vicious survive. Hyral is a different kind of underdog: a high status wizard whose unorthodox teaching methods set him at odds with the rest of his institution. Both men have become disillusioned with themselves and the world around them. They carry a tremendous load of guilt for their failures. While they journey toward an epic battle, they also help each other confront their own personal demons.


Engler’s writing fills the senses. The world is richly realized not just as something cartographic, but as cultures and subcultures, and the misfits who jut out like nails waiting to be hammered down. Though the story covers events that threaten cities, the book’s strength is in the compassionate, forgiving treatment of flawed individuals in dire circumstances. From the grandiose political dogma of the most powerful city-states to the smaller course of love and betrayal, problems are rendered in captivating complexity. The incessant tension of Rat’s daily life, and the far-reaching scope of Hyral’s ambitions keep the book engaging.


So while most high fantasy takes place on a superhuman scale, The Wizard and the Rat embraces a human scale. This might not appeal to all readers, but I found it to be a refreshing change from a lot of the fantasy I read. The characters were drawn in great detail, and I found myself caring as much (or more) about their search for redemption as I do for the fate of the world in more traditional fantasy stories.


I don’t make a lot of time for fantasy these days, because, quite honestly, too much of the genre either has no depth at all or goes the opposite extreme and tries to be high concept (and fails). Engler struck a rare balance between creating a complex, immersive world while still putting the story within easy reach. I was drawn in quickly, but then was pleasantly surprised to find that both main characters had real depth and were part of a fascinating world that I’d love to learn more about. I especially loved the sci-fi/fantasy interplay, especially as the details were slowly and cleverly revealed.


This is an epic tale and the beginning told in a calm style entirely befitting its characters. I wouldn’t know quite how to categorise this book as it has elements from a variety of subgenres and areas but I would certainly read the following book.


Rat is immediately sympathetic, burdened by a hard life in the Low and the stigma of being gay. I think the author did a fantastic job of conveying Rat’s homosexuality and care for the other characters in the book–in both the present story and his past, and I think it was Rat’s overwhelming ability to love, despite all the terrible things he’s suffered in his life, that really allowed me to connect to him as a character.


This book is wonderful. The world setting is both robust and believable. The characters are multidimensional and realistic. The story pulled me in from the beginning and kept me wanting more past the end. I thoroughly enjoyed not running into the same old tropes I’ve seen in a lot novels lately. Not only do I highly recommend it, I’m also now anxiously awaiting the sequel.


But I have to say this story was thrilling. It’s very simple in it’s progress. It’s mostly the story of a journey. But in between this, we get to know the past, not only of the Wizard and the Rat, who are taking this short journey together, But also the world itself and the basis of it’s magic. And there is SO MUCH back story. And it is captivating.


Excellent descriptions throughout the book really bring the scenery and world to life. From describing Rat’s inner feelings when confronted with his past to simply describing a meandering path near a river in exquisite detail, the author does not shortchange the reader, keeping up the quality of wordsmithing I have to expect from the authors I read.

The New Normal

Part 4 of Event Zero.

You can check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 before this if you like.

Yuri Hrab sighed as he parked the sedan between a rusted Nissan pickup with the flatbed torn off and a neon-blue Humvee with little gold daggers hanging from the mirror.

It’s going to be one of those days.

The row-houses that weren’t boarded up or burnt out looked like they wanted to be left alone. The concrete stairs were chipped from neglect and bullets. Bars covered windows on each floor. Doors were made of metal.

Hrab checked the address again on his glasses.

Four young men were sitting on the stoop. Their pants were baggy enough to conceal shotguns if they wanted to stick them in there. There was a near empty 40 ounce bottle of beer on the lower step. The smell of marijuana from the previous night still clung to their jackets. It was 9:00 am.

He adjusted his glasses on his nose, the surreptitious motion activated a basic thermal imaging system and general health scan. It wasn’t a 100% solution, especially in the daylight, but it gave a high confidence result. He finished adjusting and turned the scan off. To outsiders it would have looked like the reflection from the sun.

“Gentlemen, good morning.”

The presumptive leader of the group puffed up and offered a “What the fuck do you want?” that was weekend by the previous night’s efforts at having a good time.

Read More …

I listen to podcasts

My phone, a Samsung Galaxy 2, (don’t get me started about how crappy the podcast software available for it is compared to the iPhone,) is laden with podcasts. With so much content out there, it’s nearly impossible to determine what to listen to. Somehow I’ve settled on these.

Geologic PodcastGeologic

A podcast about skepticism, atheism, music, and the religious moron of the week from professional musician George Hrab. Funny, personal, and intelligent, Hrab’s podcast is comforting in that it embraces critical thinking without losing his sense of humility or empathy. It’s an exceptionally well produced podcast as well.


Skeptic’s Guide to the UniverseSGU

I’ve listened to most if not all of the Skeptic’s Guide and have always found a lot of value in it, and have learned a lot about science and critical thinking. Steven Novella and crew have been at it for quite a while, and do a good job of talking about the latest science news with a critical eye. They react to news that’s both scientifically plausible, and the bizarre, and apply critical reasoning to each.


WTF Podcast with Marc MaronMarc Maron

“You know when you make popcorn there are always those fluffy white kernels that are fun and good to eat but there are also always those burnt, black kernels that don’t pop. You know why they don’t pop? Because they have integrity.”

“In most cases the only difference between depression and disappointment is your level of commitment.”

Marc Maron is an “alternative” comic who has revitalized his career and perhaps his life with a podcast. He does hour long interviews with people, mostly comedians but there are a few musicians thrown in the mix. He has great chemistry with nearly all the people he interviews, and has an impressive list of celebrities in his over 400 episodes of recording, including comedy legends like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. The latest 50 are available for free, after that you need to buy an app to stream them or get them from his site. I’m considering doing that, to catch up on some of my favorite comedians.


Live from the Laugh Factory with Dom IrreraDom Irrera

Another comedy legend, Dom Irrera, has a podcast– this one is just him and a comedian on stage in an empty theater talking about whatever comes to their minds. Irrera is not afraid to speak his mind about anything, and that honesty comes through clearly. It’s refreshing to hear someone say he doesn’t like another comedian or thinks someone is a stage hog.


The YogPodYogpod

It is generally believed and suggested multiple times in the YoGPoD by Lewis and Simon that listening to the podcast over long periods of time will lead you to becoming generally insane. The fact that you tuned into the YoGPoD shows your insanity and the more you listen to it the further you will lose yourself. Despite this theory, many continue to live amongst the common people.

The YogPod is Simon and Lewis from the Yogscast YouTube channel. They stopped making podcasts a while back, but have recently been uploading the Simple Simon interviews with various other YouTube gaming personalities.


The BugleThe Bugle

Since its birth in October 2007, John and Andy have dispensed their weekly doses of satire and bullshit to an estimated potential global audience of 7 billion people. They have left no political hot potato unbuttered, and have presided over, and/or caused, and/or commented on (delete according to preference) the downfall of several of the world’s least desirable despots and dinner companions.

The Bugle is my favorite podcast. John Oliver and his long time British comedy partner Andy Szaltzman get together via the Internet to record 30 minutes of unadulterated news bullshit. They take the headlines and comment upon them in their own pitch perfect sardonic ways.



I don’t really listen to Kevin Smith’s podcast anymore. I listened to most of them, then just fell off the Kevin Smith wagon. I might get back into it, but there are only so many hours of walking to and from public transit to listen to podcasts, and SmodCo got pushed to the back of the line. It’s still a great listen however.


Do any of you listen to podcasts on a regular basis? Which ones do you think are in the top 5 for you?