“Beyond the Spiral gates” by Mutch Katsonga

Beyond the Spiral GatesIn his debut novel “Beyond the spiral gates”, Mutch Katsonga spins a coming of age tale of a boy sentenced to life in an institution during his teenage years. The whole story confirms a universal truth that most people aren’t inherently good or bad, and that sometimes good people do bad things and vice versa.

The author makes his distaste for the members of organized religion very clear and it serves the purpose of the story since the main character is an abused boy put in the care of men of religion who gave him and his fellow inmates the worst possible time.

Some of the dialogue could’ve used more work. It’s a recurring issue with debut novels, where the author believes that in order to write a good book he has to use more elevated speech, but in practice, it’s the opposite. I personally find it hard to connect with characters if they talk in a way that no real person talks.

As someone who managed to completely ruin her attention span with years of Internet abuse, I sometimes found it hard to read through the long paragraphs of description, even though they were very carefully crafted. The author has a developed style and it’s obvious that this novel was a work of many hours.

This novel isn’t something I usually read but I am glad I did since it gave me something fresh to think about. If you enjoy a good story of a boy finding his way to adulthood, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t, then this is something worth checking out.

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“All These Things: Maya Invictus” by Mark Tiro

All These Things: Maya Invictus (The Spirit Invictus Series Book 2)The story of David Nagai and the strangest case Maya ever took in her career was briefly mentioned in Mr Tiro’s first book “Implicit: Soul Invictus” and now has found its own space to shine. David’s daughter died in a car crash that was suspected of being a planned murder and it’s up to Maya to make him a free man again. In the process, she discovers a lot about herself and rethinks her own life.

Maya is an amazingly complex character. She’s a smart and successful, a good friend, awfully ambitious and a woman haunted by her past. As the story progresses, she continues to grow as a person and her strange bond with David brings out the layers of her personality for us to dissect.

. The novel is sprinkled with little funny snippets that tell us a lot about her life, like her brief encounter with Mr Washington the homeless man she took out of prison or the phone call she receives from her mother who starts worrying that her daughter will end up being a truck driver, just like Uncle Johnny. It really helps bring out the multiple dimensions of Maya’s and David’s story.

While the author stays true to his writing style and themes that he talks about, his second book. I found it more enjoyable than the first one, mostly because it really appeals to the little girl in me who spent most of her childhood watching crime-solving TV shows, but also since it’s quite obvious that the author has improved his skills.

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“Implicit: Soul Invictus” by Mark Tiro

Implicit: Soul Invictus (The Spirit Invictus, #1)The story of “Implicit: Soul Invictus” starts with our main character Maya, whose career as a law professor gets ruined by one of her students saying one simple lie to stain her reputation. Holding a grudge, she invited her law school friend Larry to help her with the lawsuit and have a few drinks too. She then finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, in a middle of an armed robbery where she gets shot multiple times and dies. Maya’s soul then goes on a journey through her past and future lives, where she learns about the universe, life and what it means to forgive.

The plot starts off slow but it soon picks up and it’s impossible to stop reading. It was mostly helped by Mr Tiro’s unique writing style which is easy to follow and builds momentum as the story goes on.

What I really enjoyed about this novel was how much hope it gives to the reader about life. It’s a great blend of spirituality and philosophy with a dash of author’s knowledge of history, which he then clarifies further in his note at the end of the novel.

My only remark would be that perhaps the way the author writes is too unified and it’s impossible to distinguish the way the modern characters talk from the historic and future ones. But that can be easily overlooked if you take in consideration that all these incarnations came from one soul and its characteristics are supposed to be unifying since, if you believe in reincarnation, there is something about our souls which makes them unique and transcends rebirth.

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“Just a Bit of Trust” by Norma-Tee Thompson

Just a Bit of Trust (Constel·lació #1)An interplanetary romance between Didac, the ruler of a warrior planet, and Vivian, a delicate human female is a proof that some relationship issues transcend species and are universal.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed with how the author handled the falling in love part. For the first thirty pages or so you get these scenes filled with suspense and pure testosterone and you expect aliens and humans fighting in space. It appeals to the science fiction geek in me. But then Didac lays his eyes on Vivian and he instantly gets completely absorbed with her, which makes it seem like cheating. Granted, this was explained with the factoid that Constel·lacións get mated with someone as soon as they lay their hands on them.

What I did like about this novel is the writing style which communicates the story easily. It’s straightforward and simple, although I would’ve liked a bit more background on the culture of Constel·lación and the dialogue could’ve used a bit more padding. Otherwise, it was executed quite well.

Being a total sucker for sexy alien warriors who have tattoos, I enjoyed this novel quite a lot, despite its obvious flaws. The female characters were perpetuating the stereotype that women’s lives revolve around men and their decisions and that they are submissive to men. But this is a light-hearted romance novel with a bunch of sexy scenes (in space). The story is fun and engaging enough. What more do you need?

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“The Harmonious Land of Semi Darkness” by Tibor Žukina

The Harmonious Land of Semi-Darknessis a high fantasy novel that talks about the interference of the higher beings with the lives of mortals. God, demons and regular people all intertwined in one story of the never-ending battle of good and evil.  i286260064332163359._szw480h1280_

As someone who is coming from the same culture as the author, I couldn’t help but notice him exploring some themes in his novel that are pretty typical for our region. It plainly obvious that Mr Žukina is struggling with his environment which, although quite warm and family focused, usually questions every decision a young person makes. This is reflected in the character of Andria, who after his childhood feels like he’s not progressing in life.

The author has a writing style which is pretty usual for the genre but he really makes it his own. What I really enjoyed about this novel was his devotion to his story and how much it subconsciously reflected the reality which we both share. Although his prose can be pretty thick and hard to read at times, it definitely didn’t lack in the description which made the world he built quite easy to picture.

This is a novel that appeals to the lovers of the genre which is admittedly rather niche. So if you enjoy an action-packed plot with plenty of high speech dialogue, “The Harmonious Land of Semi-Darkness” is something to check out.

“In Bt.” by James Kidac

In Bt.“In Bt” is an interesting story of angels and devils, love and life in the modern world. It’s a lifetime of experiences condensed into four hundred pages for us to make use of. It is a fantasy that is very much about the reality.

If you’re looking for a novel with traditional storytelling, this is not it. Mr Kidac makes his own rules in crafting his story and putting. The unique authorial voice, while mostly engaging, occasionally skews in the self-indulging territory. At times the plot and characters were obscured by overly verbose prose but it still manages to keep the reader’s attention.

What I really enjoyed about this novel is how personal and intimate it feels. It’s almost like an immediate insight into the author’s mind and his worldviews. The philosophy he presents is somewhat cynical yet there is a subtle current of optimism flowing through the novel. He still manages to emphasize the importance of love and relationships in the development of human identity.

The author had put down the foundations for his own personal style which I’m sure will continue to develop in his path to becoming an established author.

If you are in need of a different kind of novel, something that will give a different perspective and make you think more deeply about how the modern world works, “In Bt.” is something to check out.

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“The Water Balloon Gang” by John Redstand

The Water Balloon GangThe Water Balloon Gang is a funny short story featuring the unnamed main character, a twelve-year-old boy on the brink of puberty who is a part of his neighbourhood’s group water attack on by passing cars. But the first vehicle was a police cruiser and they had their windows down. What followed was a fast-paced chase and a curious insight of the teenagers-kids relationships.

The writing style of Mr Redstand is easy flowing. He doesn’t bother with flowery prose and that’s why I think why all ages can get something out of it. You can’t help but sympathize with the main character and the naivety that comes with his age. His puzzlement with teenagers is best captured in the following quote:

“ Was I going to go crazy when I turned thirteen next year?”

The way the older kids treat him is very familiar to everyone with older siblings. I have two of them myself and I could remember the feeling of being twelve in a room of sixteen-year-olds all too well.
What I really enjoyed was how easy it was to picture it all: the dogs and the police, the soaking uniforms of the officers and the grin of the cashier as the kid goes shopping for a teenage party (which turns out to not need cake).

This was such an enjoyable short story to read and I can’t wait to see if the author decides to publish something that will take longer to read. This little snippet reminded me of my childhood and I assume it was a flashback of his.

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“Artemis” by Andy Weir

ArtemisJasmine “Jazz” Bashara is a petty criminal in her early twenties, living in Artemis, the only Moon city. Haunted by the guilt of making bad decisions in her teens, she accepts a billionaire’s request to help him take over Moon’s aluminium and oxygen industry. But things don’t go as planned and Jazz gets in the middle of an organized takeover of her town and she’s the one who can save her home.

Sometimes I think that Andy Weir is writing just for me. The Martian is definitely one of my favourite sci-fi novels. It’s so well-written, the science and engineering talk is what gets me going any time and the nerdy jokes were well appreciated. The self-talk that the main character goes through feels real and not forced since he is talking to himself and he is trying to keep himself sane. But in Artemis, the author made a mistake. Jazz is the female version of Mark Watney. And not a great one.

She has the same inner monologue but it doesn’t sit as well. In this novel, Jazz is a non-practising Muslim and the main moon harlot who had a lot of potentials but liked dick more than studying. She’s irresponsible, petty and careless but she’s also a genius who can learn things really fast. There is nothing feminine about her. Her awareness of her body is nearly comedic and the number of childish sex jokes didn’t help her image either. But she still manages to be the kick-ass main character you expect from this kind of a novel.

The world building feels a little haphazard and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. How did Kenya become a leading nation in space colonialization? Why is the culture so Americanized? Isn’t Artemis supposed to be a multicultural place? I assume that Mr Weir decided to not play safe, but it seems like he wrote by assuming what non-American culture should look like. It’s understandable that none of his editors noticed that since they most certainly are all American.
What I did like about Artemis is all the talk about welding. Being an engineering student and all, you can talk to me about welding and engineering all day long and it’s very unlikely that I would grow bored of it.

There was enough suspense to keep me hooked and read it in one sitting. The novel has some major flaws but it’s impossible to not enjoy it. I bet there will be plans to put this on the silver screen soon.

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