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Rules of the Game – Review

Title: Rules of the Game (Engame #3)

Author: James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Genre: YA/Action

Book procurement: Bought from my new favourite bookstore Estoril Books.

Synopsis:

The revolutionary Endgame trilogy concludes in this explosive finale to the series. One key remains—can the Players find it before the end of the world?

The strongest are left.
One final key remains.
The fate of the world is in their hands.

The world of Endgame is populated by twelve ancient bloodlines. In each line, a Player trains for a catastrophic event that has not yet happened—until the Calling. Once they were called, the Players set off on a journey in search of three ancient keys that will save not just their line, but the world. Two keys have now been found, and the remaining Players must find the final key—before Endgame brings about the ultimate destruction.

Review:

First Thoughts

 

You know there was a point where I literally put the book down, put my head between my knees and shouted obscenities at James Frey and Nils Johnson. Honestly. I was angry because they just… ugh. Anyway.

The story continues where where Sky Key left off, and the approach of Abbadon – the beginning of the end of the world. Once the final player gets all three keys, that’s it. Game over. And Keplar 22b will do anything to ensure that a winner is crowned. Heading into this novel, I was worried about where the story would go. Who would survive. Who would kill who. A lot of drama, flared tempers, one crazy player who is losing their mind, and the entirety of Earth at stake. Still brilliantly written.

Writing

 

The writing flows right through from the first book to the final book. You can’t tell it is written by two authors. We still switch between all the respective players, experiencing their side of the story. It’s so fascinating to know all sides of the story and wanting to yell at the characters in the book who don’t know that they should turn around!! Riveting writing.

The characters were all real to me. Their personalities shone through with each chapter, their motivations clear and relatable. There was still a lot of action. Sometimes I wondered just how intense these teens’ training was that they can so easily fly planes, steal a car in under 5 seconds, pull off headshots from miles away, and still be teens.

Final Thoughts

The ending felt slightly anti-climatic but fair. Well fair in how it ends but not who survives Endgame – okay not fair to me. I’m still upset as you can clearly see haha. I would still recommend this series to everyone who enjoys a good action-adventure, thriller, sci-fi story about ruthless killer teens hoping to win an ancient game set up by Makers who traveled to the Earth ages ago. An interesting blend of religious context and alien conspiracy theories amalgamated into a fantastic series.

Rating: A satisfying 5 out of 5


Have you read the Endgame series? What series have you read and enjoyed and wanted to punch the author for their secret reveals and unexpected deaths? What would you recommend I read next?

 

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The Hatching / Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.


Today’s Monday Book recommendation comes courtesy of one of my favourite book reviewers Redheaded Booklover. I saw this on her blog and I thought: Ugh Spiders! and This sounds amazing! Zombies are one thing… but a killer spider pandemic? *Shivers*

You can read her reviews here: The Hatching and Skitter.


About Ezekiel Boone

I live in upstate New York with my wife and kids. Whenever I travel and say I’m from New York, people think I mean NYC, but we live about three hours north of New York City. Our house is five minutes outside of a university town. We’re far enough out of town that, at night, it’s dark.
No.
Darker than that.
Dark enough that, if you’re not careful, you might fall off the small cliff at the edge of my property. If you’re lucky, the water will be up enough to break your fall. If you’re not lucky, please sign a waiver before you come to visit.
I’ve got two unruly dogs who are mostly friendly. Well, that’s not true. The part about them being unruly is true, but one of them is the most friendly dog you’ve ever met, and the other dog … isn’t. They are good writing partners, though they spend a lot of their day curled up in front of the wood burning stove and ignoring me. Unless I’m making lunch. They pay attention to me then.
The Ezekiel Boone website is www.ezekielboone.com, but I’ve also got a nifty website for THE HATCHING at www.TheHatchingBook.com. It has a cool map and some other bells and whistles.
You can also follow me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram if you are so inclined and like the idea of occasionally seeing photos of my dogs.
If you’ve read this far, I should mention that THE HATCHING is Ezekiel Boone’s first book, but it’s not actually *my* first book. I also write under the name Alexi Zentner. Alexi Zentner’s books are pretty different from Ezekiel Boone’s.

May Update

Camp NaNo is done and dusted, and while I did not get to the appended 50K mark, I did get to my original 25K goal. So it is both a win and a non-win.

Sadly, my blog and reading suffered quite a bit during NaNo. And also April is practically a public holiday here in South Africa so I was barely at home or barely writing when I was. It was heavy busy, but I do not regret anything. I experienced a lot of great things I wouldn’t trade for an addition 25K words.

May Goals

I always feel like I have the potential to do so much more than I plan for, but do not have the time to do it all. Nonetheless, goals are great for motivation and when I cross off a goal, I feel fantastic.

Reading: I finished two incredible books. The first was Rules of the Game, the third and final book of the Endgame series. So much action. So much drama. So much almost crying. Click the covers for a review. Rules of the game will have a proper review later on the blog but you can read the initial review on Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second book was Eleanor & Park, a YA romance novel that hit me harder than I expected it to. My heart was in my throat the whole time. Beautiful. Click the cover for my Goodreads review.

Next on the list are:

  1. Blood Moon – John David Bethel
  2. Grey Magic – J.T. Lawrence
  3. Why You Were Taken – J.T. Lawrence
  4. Enden – David Kummer

I still have my Brandon Sanderson Mist Born Trilogy to read as well.

Writing:

Innocence: I will be finishing this horror novella this month. There are 10 chapters in total, each about 1500 words or so. It is available for free on Wattpad and you can read chapter 7 later today. To catch up on what has already happened, (and follow me on Wattpad) follow this link -> Wattpad Story – Innocence.

 

A quick synopsis:

The law exists to protect citizens from injustice, violence, and immorality. However, the law itself is also bound to it’s own statutes, and sometimes, the guilty are set free.
Four officers and a young medical student decide to take the law into their own hands, sentencing the known murderer, Marius de Wet, to an illegal Death Penalty within the unused Melville police precinct basement.
If word got out, the repercussions would be insurmountable for the five overseers of the unauthorized execution, and they vow to keep their silence.
But Marius is calling from the grave, seeking justice.
And he will claim his innocence.

Do be warned, it is rated “Mature” due to violence and language.

Last Robot on Earth: I have written about 16,001 words of this. This first arc will probably run up to 25,000 words. Unfortunately I did not write this main character as I was supposed to. Got too caught up in the story to realize he’s way off personality wise. So I’ll be rounding up the first arc and editing the character before moving on with the story.

While it is a Patreon project, I’ll be sharing some of the processes with you. This is one of the novels I will be completing this year.

Dominae Mortem: This is at 10,713 words. I covered two of the four main protagonists that the story revolves around. While I enjoyed the process, it involved so much world building and research that it took longer to write. I still haven’t planned out the other two characters so writing this will be quite a drawn out process.

From a planning perspective, I have the first arc figured out. Basically it is the “who” arc, where you get to know more about both the characters and the world they live in. Each is supposed to end with a “WHAT?!” cliff hanger that will lead into the second arc, “what now?” This will probably cover the first 50-75K mark. It is a Dark Fantasy novel after all so it could get long.

Junk Yard Angel: Ugh don’t even ask haha. This is novel is like that TV series you want to watch, then watch only one episode before moving on to other series. There’s so much potential but I’m too lazy to dig through it. It also has massive amounts of research and plotting to get through. Nonetheless, the novel itself is 8181 words of the introductory arc.

The JYA Short Stories – a prequel to the events of the main novel, is going pretty well. I’m enjoying that much better, but of course this is because all the characters are so much fun to write. 6452 words so far broken between five short stories that are all related and linked to each other and to the main novel. I will be releasing this once JYA itself is written.

Portals: This is a secret novel from last years NaNoWriMo – the Science Fantasy Horror Thriller of 33,865 words. It is a convoluted mess but a fascinating convoluted mess. Intertwining time-lines, characters and motivations. This little side project is not important but it’s fun.


What are your goals for May? How well did you do during Camp NaNo if you participated?

Wednesday Book Review: Mapping the Interior

Title: Mapping the Interior

Author: Stephen Graham Jones

Genre: Horror

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 94.

Synopsis:

Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.

Review:

First Thoughts

I came away from this book feeling deeply troubled in a way that only good horror stories can manage. It’s not just about the innocence of young Junior during the whole narration, but his naivety that only makes things worse. As a Native American, moving into an obscure neighbourhood, there are a number of challenges they already have to face.  Let alone a mother hoping to raise two boys after their father dies mysteriously at the reservation. And Juniors little brother already has his own learning problems.

And that ending though, gee I was not expecting that. Troubled indeed.

Writing

The writing is fast paced. Moving between the scenes with clarity and a touch of mystery. Told from the perspective of an older Junior, we see just how traumatic his childhood was, following the dark silhouette of his dead father disappearing through a doorway. The desperation of a child hoping to reconnect with his father, regardless of the monster he may have become. It is melancholic woe pushing this story forward.

 

At the same time, there are a number of horrific episodes that occur. I loved it! I mean… you know… its horror. How Junior is driven by hope through all of these numerous episodes is in itself naive and just sad. Yet brings a realism that I could relate to.

There are a number of characters who appear alongside Junior. His brother has a learning disability that makes him the target of bullies. Junior’s mother is struggling to rebuild her life, as her kids always come first. Junior himself sees his role as both big brother and man of the house. It’s a story of broken people in a broken world.

Final Thoughts

While I may classify this book as a horror, it reminds me of the Stephen King sort of horror. Where the story is not about the evil entity roused from an Indian burial ground (Classic King ain’t it?) but a story about the people who have to deal with it. It’s a story about Junior, and his brother, his mother, and the community. And it’s a great read.

Rating: A melancholic 4 out of 5


If you would like to support my novel writing efforts, with really cool exclusive content, you can check out my Patreon here: Patreon/NthatoMorakabi.

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Dominae Mortem – Tengu Mythology

In one of my Patreon posts I spoke about exploring the origin of folklore and mythology for my Dominae Mortem novel. The idea is to look at existing spiritual creatures and monsters, and create my own version of how they came to be. Today we look at the Tengu from Japanese mythology:

Tengu are legendary creatures found in Japanese folk religion.  They are also considered a type of god (kami) or yōkai (supernatural being). Although they take their name from a dog-like Chinese demon (Tiangou), the tengu were originally thought to take the forms of birds of prey, and they are traditionally depicted with both human and avian characteristics.

Tengu are most frequently depicted in the yamabushi’s (yamahoshi’) distinctive costume, which includes a tokin and yuigesa – a pom-pommed sash.

The arc I am working on for Dominae Mortem this Camp NaNo was not planned. I knew the character but not the setting and not what’s supposed to happen. This rolled into a week long research/writing where Google Maps/Images was my best friend.

Creating a realistic location is so much work. Without a plan, I kept writing myself into a couple of impossible situations. And I did what any normal Dark Fantasy author would do… I hurt the protagonist. No one escapes the wrath of dark fantasy. So nothing at all was working according to plan.

However, one thing I knew for certain was that I had to create a Tengu. I had no idea how or who or when. Thankfully, the setting I spent so much time researching told the story I needed. As I pantsed my way through, I created a character who had a specific role and they in-turn decided to alter their destiny.

Here’s an excerpt of the transformation:

*Touma-san. Takeda-san. Naoharu-san. Do not rejoice. Your sacrifice bears many consequences. Until the Shinigami accepts her fate, the curses will remain.

Naoharu the yamahoshi is suddenly thrown into the air. A large brown bird descends from the heavens. A tobi – the Black Kite. Its claws grip Naoharu’s scalp and the bird thrusts its head into the yamahoshi’s open skull. He screeches in fear and pain. Still he lifts into the air, caught in the birds’ claws. The tobi continues to dig its head into Naoharu, pushing through the rotted brain. We watch aghast as its beak pushes out of Naoharu’s nose, stretching the skin until it seems to break. His face begins to simmer in black tendrils, melting the skin as it takes on the shape of the bird. His features transform until he is an amalgamated bird man. The tobi’s body completely sinks into the screaming yamahoshi. The residing maggots skitter out in droves. They dribble down the yamahoshi’s yuigesa as the man crumples forward in the air. We hear the popping crunch of bone. It is like the crack of thunder. Naoharu’s arches his spine as the back of his robes rip. Large black-brown wings sprout from his back. They continue to grow and grow and grow, until they are as tall as the yamahoshi.

This tori-no-otoko, Tengu as we name him, shall be the guardian and prosecutor of the Ōyashiro. The voice rumbles – As for you, Touma-san, the darkness within shall lead you to the Shinigami. Find her. She must accept her destiny.

A single breeze blows through us and Naoharu drops from the air. His enormous wings beat once with a gale of wind and he remains hovering above us. His beady eyes flit about. A bird-like screech claws from his beak as he beats his wings again. He ascends into the heavens and flutters off towards the grand shrine.

*

And off goes Naoharu to become the great myth known as the Tengu. You probably have a lot of questions about the who, what, where etc that lead to this. All shall be revealed in the final novel. Until then, it’s back to the writing. Thanks for dropping by.

Monday Book Recommendation: The Women of Baker Street

As Sherlock and Watson return from the famous Hound of the Baskervilles case, Mrs Hudson and Mary must face their own Hound, in the swirling fog of Victorian London . . .

When Mrs Hudson falls ill, she is taken into a private ward at St Barts hospital. Perhaps it is her over-active imagination, or her penchant for sniffing out secrets, but as she lies in her bed, slowly recovering, she finds herself surrounded by patients who all have some skeletons in their closets. A higher number of deaths than usual seem to occur on this ward. On her very first night, Mrs Hudson believes she witnesses a murder. But was it real, or just smoke and mirrors?

Mary Watson meanwhile has heard about young boys disappearing across London, and is determined to find them and reunite them with their families. As the women’s investigations collide in unexpected ways, a gruesome discovery in Regent’s Park leads them on to a new, terrifying case.


I’ve recently started getting into mystery novels. The darker the better and although I have yet to read this novel, it sounds like it’s right up my alley. You can read the review on my good friend Vicky’s blog: The Women of Baker Street – review.

Michelle Birkby has always loved crime stories, and read her first Sherlock Holmes book when she was thirteen. She was given a beautiful collection of all the short stories and has been hooked with the wonderful, gas-lit, atmospheric world of crime and adventure ever since. A few years ago Michelle was re-reading The Empty House and a blurred figure in the background suddenly came into focus. It became clear to her that Mrs Hudson was much more than a housekeeper to 221b and she’d always been fascinated by Mary Watson’s character. So she set about giving the women of Baker Street a voice and adventures of their own . . . The House at Baker Street is the first book in the exciting Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson Investigations.

The Other Side of World Building

March was a month dedicated to world building in preparation for Camp NaNo, which is already at the end of its second week. One of the biggest issues with the process of world building is the fact that you are not writing as you build the world. You have concept characters in a concept world pushing conceptual plots.

As a writer, you should know, what you have in your head never works out the same way once the words fill up your blank page. Your characters start misbehaving, adding more to their backstory, referencing characters you haven’t really created because you didn’t think about them. The world, which was rich and expansive, does not incorporate the little spaces your characters decide to visit.

This has been my woe with the first of the novels I’m working on, Last Robot on Earth (name to be revised). Below is the mind map that plots out all the places where the story takes place. This is one of five mind maps that are just as detailed. I figured that all of this would be sufficient… but it’s not.

I had to create a sixth map where I outline what happens in the first arc, and within that arc all the details of what should happen. I say should because when I started writing, I realised that what I had built was still being shifted around by the story itself. On this side of world building, the story is the boss.

Plotting vs Pantsing

I’m not a plotter by default. Perhaps that’s why this isn’t working as well for me as I thought it would. I lack the details. I see the overall picture and think little of the puzzle pieces that work together to build the picture. What has definitely helped with the plotting, is knowing where I am going. Which means I still have the freedom to write the scenes as they happen. Of pantsing my way through the checkpoints I have planned.

This also means writer’s block doesn’t strike so often. I am thankful for all the work I put in to planning and so onward I go. 18,582 words and counting.


Have you experienced this when you are world building?

Wednesday Book Review: Endgame – Sky Key

Title: Sky Key – An Endgame Novel #2

Author: James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Genre: YA / Action

Book procurement: Bought from my new favourite bookstore Estoril Books.

Synopsis:

Endgame is here. Earth Key has been found. Two keys—and nine Players—remain. The keys must be found, and only one Player can win.

Queens, New York. Aisling Kopp believes the unthinkable: that Endgame can be stopped. But before she can get home to regroup, she is approached by the CIA. They know about Endgame. And they have their own ideas about how it should be Played. Ideas that could change everything.

Kingdom of Aksum, Ethiopia. Hilal ibn Isa al-Salt narrowly survived an attack that leaves him horribly disfigured. He now knows something the other Players do not. But the Aksumites have a secret that is unique to their line. A secret that can help redeem humanity—and maybe even be used to help defeat the beings behind Endgame.

London, England. Sarah Alopay has found the first key. She is with Jago—and they are winning.But getting Earth Key has come at a great cost to Sarah. The only thing that keeps the demons at bay is Playing. Playing to win.

Sky Key—wherever it is, whatever it is—is next. And the nine remaining Players will stop at nothing to get it.

Review:

First Thoughts

Well what can I say, I loved the first book. It was riveting and action packed and those players were ruthless. Some were human to a good degree. Others were monsters. This second book continues the ongoing saga to save humanity from Endgame… but the rules are changing. It’s amazing to see how at one point everyone was moving in one direction and then suddenly they are moving in a different direction. It’s brilliant.

Writing

Nothing has changed from the initial book in terms of writing. We switch between the remaining Players as they seek out Sky Key, the second of three keys that are supposed to save their line from Endgame – a world ending cataclsymic event.

Every character is unique. They have their own quirks that make them not only the best Players, but the best of who they each are as Players. Assassins. Snipers. Fighters. They are not only resourceful, but they are mentally amazing. I could never think, react or even manage to survive like they do. And the writing switching between the characters allows you to see from their own perspectives. There were times when I was freaking out because Player A knew Player B was approaching and Player B didn’t know! I was reading as fast as I could to get to the encounters! I almost cried at one point.

It’s interesting to see how some of the Players have changed during the course of the game. Moving from determined killer to compassionate killer. Other’s spiraling head first into pure psychotic behaviour. It’s brilliant.

Final Thoughts

Although I feel the ending is somewhat anti-climatic, it was a fair ending. A good ending. A proper ending. The first few hundred pages of the book I’m just trying to see where everyone is going. We as the readers know where Sky Key is and just waiting to see when everyone else will catch up. Then it’s a whole new game and I’m just trying to root for one of the Players but I have no idea who. I don’t even know whether I want them to find Sky Key after all or not. It was emotional in every sense.

Rating: An emotional 5 out of 5


You can find my review of the first book here: Endgame: The Calling.

If you have read the books, let me know what you thought. If you’re looking to get the books, ask me about them. No spoilers I promise.

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Dare You Not…

Dare you not hear the beat of your heart?

The silent thrum,

The quiet hum,

As constant as memories, and just as forgotten?

Loud as fear,

Heavy as woe,

Deafening to afflictions tearing it apart?

 

Dare you not feel the beat of your heart,

The timid quiver

The faint whisper

As constant as regrets, and just as forgotten?

Brittle as grief,

Fragile as despair,

Indelicately manipulated till our souls depart.

 

Can you hear the silence?

and Remember to forget

Can you feel the imperceptible?

but forget to Remember.

 

Dare you not live?

 

Monday Book Recommendation: Endgame Training Diaries

All three thrilling volumes of Endgame: The Training Diaries, the prequel novellas to the New York Times bestselling Endgame series, together in one paperback bind-up!

Before they were Players . . . Before the Calling . . . They trained to be selected as the one to save their ancient bloodline—and win Endgame.

Follow the Twelve through sacrifices and betrayals, broken hearts and broken bones, as they shed their normal lives and transform into the Players they were meant to be.

They must train, learn, prepare.
To Play, survive, and solve.
To kill or be killed.
Endgame is real.
Endgame is coming.
And only one can win.

 


I finished Sky Key the other day and after all the intensity and drama and death (I almost cried.) seemed to build up and… well the end felt a little anti-climatic. Nonetheless I move on to the final book in the main series, Rules of the Game.

James Frey is the author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. After battling with alcohol addiction and spending time in rehab, he wrote A Million Little Pieces which was published in 2003 in America and the following year in the UK to critical acclaim. He wrote the sequel, My Friend Leonard about life after rehab, which was published in 2005 in the US and the year after in the UK.

James Frey now lives in New York with his wife, daughter and dog. He is still writing. Most recently he has published Bright Shiny Morning, and his new book The Final Testament of the Holy Bible will publish on 12 April and is available for pre-order now.

He is also one of the authors that share the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, author of the Lorien Legacies.

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