All posts tagged: Books

Tales from Alternate Earths

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talesfromalternateearths

Title: Tales From Alternate Earths

Author: Jessica Holmes, Terri Pray, Brent A. Harris, Ricardo Victoria, Rob Edwards, Cathbad Maponus, Leo McBride, Daniel M. Bensen, Maria Haskins.

Publisher:  Inklings Press

Book procurement: Received from publisher because they are an amazing bunch.

Release Date: August 19, 2016.

Synopsis:

Our world could have been so very different…

Eight stories take us on a journey into how our world could have been. What if the nukes had flown that day over Cuba? What if Caesar had survived? Imagine the Tunguska meteor with a different outcome. What if there was a true story behind HG Wells’ most famous tale? See the world as it might have been if China discovered the New World first. And what if all of this was never meant to be and dinosaurs ruled the Earth?

Authors Jessica Holmes, Daniel M. Bensen, Terri Pray, Rob Edwards, Maria Haskins, Cathbad Maponus, Leo McBride, and collaborators Brent A. Harris and Ricardo Victoria show us the world that might have been – if the butterfly’s wings had fluttered a different way, if the world changed between heartbeats, if a moment of decision saw another choice.

This is the fourth anthology from Inklings Press, aiming to provide a platform for new and upcoming authors and to open the door onto different worlds.

Review:

I was never a fan of history at school. I think when you’re younger, those things seem irrelevant and pointless. Now that I’m a little bit older I find history fascinating. Watching the world change around me. I visited my old neighbourhood and drove past my previous house to find that nostalgia was not forthcoming as I would have expected. Things had changed so drastically that I had nothing to reminisce about; even the tree I had spent days pretending was a giant robot, was gone.

Now imagine if we hadn’t moved out. How different would my life be now? Would I be seeing that tree as a sentimental token to my youth, or a nuisance in my front yard? Tales From Alternate Earths doesn’t explore such trivialities, but pushes the boundaries a bit further. In it, cutting down that tree myself may have led me to find a time capsule from the 1500s telling me where I can find an ancient medallion that makes me president. Or something.

The writing by each of the authors is brilliant. There wasn’t a story I read where I was put off by the writing style, tense or anything. Flowing freely between scenes, building up to the great reveal that changes the world as we know it, and all while keeping the suspense high. These are the history lessons that never were, and could never be, and make for compelling history nonetheless.

Of the eight stories, I would pick out Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon, a collaboration by Brent A Harris & Ricardo Victoria where sentient dinosaurs rule the planet. The Secret War by Leo McBride with a fantastic twist regarding the famous HG Wells. Lastly, Tunguska, 1987 by Maria Haskins has an ending that deserves an entire novel!

I was also able to read through these short stories in a single sitting. I enjoyed them so much I wanted to get into the next story rather than take a break and at the end I wanted more. Great work by the authors and a wonderful collection by Inklings Press. Keep up the great work!

Rating:  A fantastic 4 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiTales from Alternate Earths
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A Space Between Worlds Vol 1: Conception

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aspacebetweenworlds-cover

Title: A Space Between Worlds Vol 1: Conception

Author: J.D Woodson

Publisher:  Royal James Publishing

Book procurement: Received from publisher in return for an honest review.

Release Date: October 17, 2016.

Synopsis:

Songstress Shanti’s final performance is no different than any other. Gazing into the mirror, the Songstress laments her faceless curse. To hide her unsightliness, she dons a beautiful mask. She knows she doesn’t belong in the darkness. Her desire is to live in a world of eternal light, to be seen for who she truly is.

An enigmatic man who calls himself Avidia beckons Shanti, claiming to know how to conceive the world of light sleeping inside of her, and escape her current world of darkness, Cauraaha. Avidia poses the question that will be the key to her desire, as well as an unresolved pain:

“What is your first memory?”

Reno, a gentle florist, has his own stigma, a translucent coil of thorns wrapped around his arm, draining him of life at the utterance of the word “Promise”. Hidden away in his heart is the knowledge of a past he doesn’t wish to face, one that connects to Shanti, Avidia, and her curse.

A dual narrative of introspection and self-discovery, A Space Between Worlds eloquently questions the truths of life and death, timeless bonds, and regret through lyrical imagination, philosophy, surrealism, and a journey through the unconscious mind.

Review:

We are thinking, feeling beings currently experiencing the ebb and flow of life. Guided by our past, driven by the prospects of our future, and engaging in the instance of our present. We question our existence, the banality of day to day life, the adventure of hope, regret, love, friendship – and the inevitability of death. Do we remember our first memory? Do we know what happens when we die? Will we cease to exist? Will we live eternally in the presence of the Creator? Will we return to the world in an endless cycle of life and death?

These are the questions JD Woodson explores in this poetic narrative A Space Between Worlds: Conception. We follow the mysterious songstress Shanti, and her faceless existence seeking to be seen. We follow the emotive Reno with a dark past coiled around his arm in living, life draining thorns. The story flits between these two characters as they seek to figure out who they are and what secrets theirs pasts hold – and the space between worlds where the enigmatic Avanti continues to unravel.

The writing is poetic, story cryptic, and although occasionally difficult to figure out, A Space Between Worlds makes for an evocative tale.

Rating:  A stirring 3 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiA Space Between Worlds Vol 1: Conception
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Ready Player One

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Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Publisher:  Broadway Books

Book procurement: Bought online on Takealot.com. Also available on Amazon and major book stores! (or it should be!)

Release Date: June 5, 2012.

Synopsis:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Review:

I’m perusing all my old online gaming haunts, checking out tutorials on YouTube and playing online on my Xbox, PC and Nintendo 3DS all at the same time. Why? Because this book is just that life changing. I mean, I’d always considered myself a gamer (I write for a gaming magazine after all) and own a variety of gaming consoles as well as building a new gaming PC. But I was twenty pages into this book and I realized I’m a noob by all standards.

So when a book is able to make you reassess your life, you know it’s brilliant. It also plays on every gamer’s dream console – fully immersive virtual reality. You don’t have to watch the .Hack series, Sword Art Online, Log Horizon anime etc or see the Samsung Gear VR, Microsoft’s Hololens, Playstation VR, Facebook’s Oculus to know that we all want that OASIS experience. We don’t want to press buttons, or look ridiculous in front of the Wii, Playstation Move or Microsoft Kinect (even though to be honest that’s what we’ll probably look like in-game anyway). We want to get inside the game and feel like we’re part of the game and not just interactive spectators. And this is the world of Ready Player One. It’s a world where you can be whatever and whoever you want.

I loved Wade. Honestly do. He’s just the kind of high level gamer you find in forums and on MMOs playing solo yet willing to go on that really difficult mission/quest/dungeon with you. He’s not an egotistical jerk. And he has a great sense of humour. I feel like I could relate to him in the gaming world. And that’s a well written character. All the other characters are just as well rounded. No one is a demi-god with amazing good looks and perfect personalities, traits and gaming skills. They are flawed. They are regular folk like you and me. They are real and believable. From Art3mis to Aech (ha! I did not see that coming) to the brothers Shoto and Daito, and even Halliday, Ogden (Og) and the antagonist Sorrento. Just gamers doing what they do best.

The story flows really well. The writing is personal as it is descriptive. You are Wade and experiencing his emotions, thoughts, struggles, hopes, dreams – everything. Ernest Cline really did his homework on all these 80’s titles. I’ve never heard of quite a number of games, anime, movies and music referenced in this book. And yet it all falls under my favourites: anime, gaming, rock and 80s tv shows. There were so many twists in there. Wow. I just wanted to keep reading more and more and more. Between finding the Egg hidden away in the gaming world, and all the conflicts happening both within and outside of the OASIS, I couldn’t help but go on a rollercoaster of emotions. I’m still reeling! I’ll probably read this book again 400 million times during the course of my life. It was that good.

I don’t even know what else to say. It was just… wow. I loved it. Completely. From a story telling perspective to content, characters, ending and all things geekery. If you love games, anime, rock, movies and the like, you’ll love this book.

Rating:  Look it’s a 10 out of 5 okay? My rating system, my rules.

Nthato MorakabiReady Player One
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Thr3e

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ted-dekker-three

Title: Thr3e

Author: Ted Dekker

Publisher:  Thomas Nelson

Book procurement: Bought at a little secondhand book store in Melville.

Release Date: December 10, 2006.

Synopsis:

Enter a world where nothing is what it seems. Where your closest friend could be your greatest enemy.

Kevin Parson is alone in his car when his cell phone rings. A man calling himself Slater offers a deadly ultimatum: You have exactly three minutes to confess your sin to the world. Refuse, and the car you’re driving will blow sky high. Then the phone goes dead.

Kevin panics. Who would make such a demand? What sin? Yet not sure what else to do, Kevin swerves into a parking lot and runs from his car. Just in case.

Precisely three minutes later, a massive explosion sets his world on a collision course with madness. And that’s only the first move in this deadly game

Review:

A friend of mine introduced me to Ted Dekker ages ago where I procured The Circle, which didn’t appeal to me much. So I tried Heavens Wager and that was a great book. Thr3e was in the backseat of my car for some weird reason, probably didn’t take it out since I bought it 6 months ago, and I decided I might as well read it. I’m so glad I did.

It begins with quite a philosophical question regarding the nature of man/humans/people. Is man good or evil? Does our capacity to do evil make us inherently evil? How do we deal with our inner duality of good and evil? In the bible sin is sin (sin is overstepping the boundaries set by God), which leads to asking if someone who gossips is as bad as someone who murders since both have overstepped the boundary – committed a sin.

Kevin Parson is a seminary student who poses this question to his professor. Almost as though to immediately lead him towards the answer, he receives a call from a man called Slater.  Solve this riddle and confess your sin, or you die. What follows is an explosive action packed adventure with Kevin Parson revisiting his childhood, solving riddles posed and trying to figure out who Slater is.

The writing is fluid. It moves along at a fantastic pace almost as though I’m watching a movie and everything is unraveling splendidly. So refreshing to enjoy a book that keeps me turning the pages and shouting out in agony as I try to figure out who Slater is. As much as Ted Dekker falls into Christian thrillers, it’s not a book trying to convert you into Christianity. There’s hardly any reference to it and when there is, it’s linked to Kevin, Slater and the ongoing battle between them. Expertly handled from beginning to end.

Let’s not forget that amazingly mind-blowing hair-tearing-from-suspense conclusion that had me talking to myself in traffic and uttering profound praise to Ted Dekker for messing with my mind!! Whoa. Loved it.

Rating: A MINDBLOWING 5 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiThr3e
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The Lillies of Dawn

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Title: The Lilies of Dawn

Author: Vanessa Fogg

Publisher:  Annorlunda Books

Book procurement: Won the book in a competition run by Vicky of BooksandStrips.

Release Date: July 26, 2016.

Synopsis:

There is a lake of marvels. A lake of water lilies that glow with the color of dawn. For generations Kai’s people have harvested these lilies, dependent upon them for the precious medicines they provide.

But now a flock of enchanted cranes has come to steal and poison the harvest. The lilies are dying. Kai’s people are in peril. A mysterious young man from the city thinks he might have a solution. Kai must work with him to solve the mystery of the cranes, and it will take all her courage, love, strength, and wisdom to do what she must to save both the lilies and her people. The Lilies of Dawn is a lushly written, lyrical fairy tale of love, duty, family, and one young woman’s coming of age.

Review:

Ah what a wonderfully sweet and fantastically written book. It’s too short though! I could have done with a couple more pages, but for what it was and it’s purpose, it was the perfect length.

It’s the story of Kai, who is the daughter of the Priestess of the Dawn Mother. A deity who’s beautiful lilies bloom at dawn and give an elixir that cures ills. However, mysterious sunlit cranes sweep in out of nowhere to steal the precious nectar and poison the flowers. Shamans, Priests and monks seek to rid the village of the birds but none succeed – until a mysterious young man appears with a possible solution.

I was pleasantly surprised with the story. A solid plot that combines real life with mysticism. There were a few things I predicted, but it wasn’t a disappointing experience – and there were few where I thought I knew where it was going and it didn’t. Like the ending! Although in hindsight I should have seen that coming haha.

The words flow beautifully along, strung almost poetically from the perspective of Kai. We get to understand her persona, learn about life and how everything has been building towards the climatic end.

Outside of my scope, especially considering it’s horror week on the blog. A recommended read.

Rating: A sweet 4 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiThe Lillies of Dawn
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Gloryhill

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gloryhill

Title: Gloryhill

Author: Vanessa Hawkins

Publisher:  Friesen Press

Book procurement: Received a copy from author for an honest review.

Release Date: Feb 24, 2016.

Synopsis:

In a festering town like Gloryhill, where the sewage overflows into the streets and the dirty, disease-ridden underworld claws its way to the surface, the existence of vampires is a thinly veiled secret. The most oozing, decomposed of them all, Pachuco, spends his nights hunting prey and pretty human girls to suck down below the surface. It’s only when Charlotte, a beautiful, sensual vampire deputy, seeks his help in solving a mystery that he directs his attention to matters outside of blood, cigarettes, and female attentions. Charlotte, on the other hand, forty years after being bitten and transformed into the monster that she now sees herself as, is desperately trying to hold onto any shred of her humanity while relentlessly pursuing a killer who threatens the delicate place that vampires hold in a human-driven world. While the case is pulling her deeper into the belly of the rotting, putrid vampire world, she engages Pachuco to seek out her human former lover and fiance. In a world that values sex above love, blood above loyalty, and death above all, will Charlotte’s dalliance with this devil bring her to the light . . . or just drag her further down into the darkness?”

Review:

First things first, Gloryhill was the perfect vampire book in its violence, sensuality and grim atmosphere. Therefore if you’re squeamish, offended by language and can’t handle rather explicit sexual descriptions, stay clear. Vanessa Hawkins holds nothing back. You have been warned.

The story opens with a fascinating gory scene out over the Alabaster River which runs through Gloryhill. It sets the pace and ominous atmosphere the rest of the novel twists through. Then again, it is vampires. Not the romantic type wearing flowing capes and finely slicked back hair in fine clothes turning into bats (vampires can’t turn into bats by the way). No, this is the look-like-regular-folk-then-eat-your-chest-out kind of vamps who don’t hold on to their humanity and embrace the darkness that has consumed them.

The characters are richly explored, perspectives flitting between like flies on dead bodies. You are thrust into their thoughts, lives, and actions in gory detail. Personalities come to the forth vividly and there is no doubt at all who is who between the changes. Charlotte swan is an intelligent, strong woman who appears as dainty as a lioness. Just because you can pet her (if you dare), it doesn’t mean she won’t rip your throat out. The story is told mostly from her perspective where we see who she is as a deputy keeping the veil up from exposing the undead. We see her before turning, the events leading up to it and what happened following. Pachuco is my favourite character in that he is neither hero, villain or anti-hero. He embraces the monster that he is and even as an undead, has his weird standards. And is witty as he is ferocious. A flurry of other characters sweep through the story, all beautifully interconnected and weaving the unwinding tale to a rather dramatic end. *That ending though!*

And Vanessa Hawkins writes beautifully haunting words. I had no critiques to her writing style, pace or anything. It was just that good – so refreshing to read without being distracted by grammar or misplaced words or anything. Gloryhill is definitely top of my list.

Rating: A disturbingly good 5 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiGloryhill
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He Counts Their Tears

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hecountstheirtears

Title: He Counts Their Tears

Author: Mary Ann D’Alto

Publisher:  Dog Ear Publishing

Book procurement: Received a copy from author for an honest review.

Release Date: Sep 17, 2015.

Synopsis:

A handsome, successful, charming man. Healer. Miracle maker. Aaron Stein is all those things. Behind the benevolent façade, however, hides a monster: a destroyer of souls who lusts after power and control. Aaron plays his ruse again and again with unsuspecting women who genuinely believe that they have met their new “best friend”, their “soul mate”. Covert hypnosis, edgy trysts, psychological warfare – they’re all part of the sick game he plays “to have all the power”
…until his secret life is threatened by a series of events he never sees coming. Will his devoted cousin, Constance, succeed in protecting him, just as she has throughout his entire life? And what exactly is it that she does to protect him? Is she a murderer, or is she simply devoted to him? Are they merely cousins (possibly, once, long ago, lovers), or are they partners in crime? Did Aaron learn his evil ways from her, or was he born a psychopath? In the end, these answers will make no difference in the lives of the women who, each in turn, are charmed into becoming his victims.

Review:

He Counts Their Tears is a novel I am at two minds about. It struck a chord with me nonetheless. One of my biggest fears is people without a conscience. People unable to empathize with others and can easily overlook the pain and grief they cause for their own pleasure. I watched a documentary ages ago about serial killers, and it was the men who didn’t cry or flinch or show any emotion as they recounted their horrific exploits that scared me the most. Aaron, the main character of this novel, is such a man.

The main thing that threw me off this novel was the repetition on every page for the first half of the novel. I don’t know if it was done on purpose to somehow reiterate Aaron’s character (Aaron does mean exalted after all and he clearly enjoys exalting himself). Perhaps it was a way of showing the depth of cruelty that is constantly on his mind, or to show the vulnerability of his victims and how he was able to lead them on. Either way, it made the whole first half quite annoying. I mean, if it was explained earlier why he’d done and said something, or why he hated a particular thing or attribute, repeating it again a couple paragraphs later, and then again later… and then again from the perspective of the woman, was aggravating. I get it. I get it. I get it.

The second half of the book picked up in terms of writing style and characters, although there were repetitions, they weren’t as bad. We also get a stronger, clearer picture of the women Aaron meets and why they are the broken, vulnerable, weak shells they are. I enjoyed these, not because Aaron is a complete *insert inappropriate comment here* but because Mary Ann D’Alto’s writing flourishes. At the same time, I lost track of the unwinding plot the first half of the book seemed to be leading to, which suddenly dropped off to focus on Aaron’s victims. Instead it picks up with an amazing short look at Constance, who she is and her role in Aaron’s life. Masterful and tragic. A great build up at the end with a great powerful end. If the book had started as strongly as it finished, this would have definitely received a higher rating.

Rating: A promising 3 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiHe Counts Their Tears
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The War Between

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Title: The War Between

Author: Jennifer Withers

Publisher:  Jennifer Withers

Genre: Fantasy

Book procurement: Received a copy from author for an honest review.

Release Date: April 13, 2016.

Synopsis:

A human war over dwindling resources has all but destroyed the world. In a country once known as South Africa, two cities struggle to survive. Toria is believed to contain the final generation of humans, while Jozenburg is inhabited by beings created and born in a laboratory, gifted with abilities both strange and terrifying. The two species have known peace for many years, but with their respective cities surrounding the remaining resources, tensions are rising. The two leaders of Jozenburg are twin siblings Syra and Draiken, and with their first successful conversion of a human to a superhuman, Draiken sets a plan in motion that will bring his kind, and the humans, to the brink of war. The arrival of Dominico in Jozenburg, a girl with unique and dangerous abilities, and a human commander claiming to have saved her life, Syra is forced to reconsider her views of not only herself, but of the beings she considered her enemies.

Review:

I haven’t read many science-fiction novels based in South Africa. The War Between is the interweaving story of survival in a post war South Africa, where humans and superhumans are caught in a web of deceit, struggle and the ultimate goal of self-preservation. Each living within a walled city separated by The Waste, they keep to themselves in fear of the other.

The story is told from the perspectives of three main protagonists. Dominico is a super-human with unique abilities living in Toria among the humans. Her powers are a secret; should anyone find out it would mean certain death. Circumstances lead her to Jozenburg, the superhuman city. Rogan is a commander from Toria, a human, a man who grew up fearing the superhumans only to find himself saving Dominico and leading her to Jozenburg. Syra is the leader of Jozenburg along with her twin brother Draiken who purses the survival of the superhuman species with dogged determination; he would do anything to ensure continuity. Syra leads with intuition and is guided by both it and her emotions, very introspective and almost as stubborn as her twin brother. As their lives intertwine, and an inevitable war boils to the surface, they learn that there is more to the other than what they have been taught their entire lives.

The novel moves along at a steady pace, the varying perspectives offering views and insights that keep you turning the pages. I experienced those “Why didn’t you see that coming!!! (Syra!)” moments and the occasional “Whoa!? What!?” as Jennifer Wither’s twists through the plot using the characters, to a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.

The characters are real, their motives clearly shown and they do not break character for the sake of the plot. The underlying message in the interactions between the two “species” is one that isn’t so foreign after all. Humans in general (super or not) tend to stick to their learned beliefs without questioning them, quick to repudiate any who are different, and will stubbornly refuse to accept others because of their beliefs even when someone proves trustworthy. Race. Language. Religion. It doesn’t matter. All it requires is a little bit of fear, mob mentality, and a self-serving leader to sustain it.

I wish there had been more about this Creator they refer to. The who and the why. Not that it would change the story as it is complete without the Creator’s backstory, but it would have been nice. Nonetheless, an intriguing story and props to Jennifer Withers.

Rating: An super 4 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiThe War Between
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BoyzNite

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front-boyznite

Title: Boyznite

Author: Xane J. Fisher

Publisher: Royal James Publishing

Genre: Short story

Book procurement: Received a copy from Royal James Publishing as part of their Blog Tour. See end of review for purchase links.

Release Date: August 1, 2016.

Synopsis:

Law school wonder student Ian Peters chronicles his first night home for the summer in Piedmont, Washington. What starts with a pleasant drive up the Pacific Northwest Coast leads him into a night of self discovery, contemplative self-assessment, and ultimately the question of what kind of man does he want to be? Along the way, he reconnects with friends, family, and an old flame who changes his world forever.

What started as a typical night of partying quickly becomes BoyzNite.

Review:

What can I say. Boyznite is a beautifully written fist to the chest, a short story about the realities that occur in the world and how sometimes, we are just out of our depth. One can only wonder how the rest of the story plays out. I myself feel compelled to do something about it, but perhaps that’s just the immature schoolboy in me.

The story follows Ian Peters and his nostalgic trip back home from law school. Along with his brother and childhood friends, they decide to have a reunion and party the night away. What follows is a typical drunken night with the boys, but also a life lesson intermingled between the testosterone, alcohol and the emotional turmoil of a young man who is slapped with the cold truths of life.

Like I said in my previous review of Something Borrowed from the Sticky Fingers anthology, “nothing is random in short stories”.  And that’s not a bad thing at all, it is in fact a useful hook for the unfolding story. Once I saw that occurrence, I knew something was coming up, I just didn’t know what. And when it hit, it hit hard.

Do note that it is very much a boys night out so language is not excessive but present, and it does have a scene with light nudity – nothing overtly sexual. Nonetheless, I finished the short story asking myself this: can we truly rectify the injustices we see, and how much of ourselves are we willing to give for another?

The story is short and really well written. It wasn’t the most compelling story but it was a good emotive journey.

Rating: A touching 3 out of 5.


Purchase Links

Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Kobo/iTunes/Indigo
Smashwords/Goodreads

Nthato MorakabiBoyzNite
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