I love receiving bookmail – especially the unexpected kind. Jessie Kwak, an independent author that I read and review for, launched the two final books of her science fiction series during the pandemic. The borders between the US and Canada were closed so I knew she would be unable to send me review copies.
This week I received a brown package that made me grin from ear to ear – the two final books in the Bulari series. Jessie’s kind gesture means that this month I will be able to binge read the rest of the story and find out what happens to the characters that I have grown to love.
And aren’t the covers gorgeous? I adore the artwork on the covers of this series.
What was the last book that you received in the mail?
On Instagram I connected with the people marketing Adam Boostron’s novel, Athena’s Choice. They reached out to me as I had shown interest in the story as the premise intrigued me – I was certainly interested in exploring the idea of women ruling the world!
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Athena Vosh lives just like any other teenager from the year 2099. She watches reality shows with her friends, eats well, and occasionally wonders to herself: what would life be like if men were still alive?
It has been almost 50 years since an experimental virus accidentally killed all the men on earth. However, a controversial project is currently underway to bring men back. There’s just one catch. The project has been sabotaged.
So begins Athena’s Choice. When the police of 2099 are tasked with finding the saboteur, they receive a mysterious command to investigate the otherwise innocuous Athena Vosh. After it becomes clear that the young girl might know more than she lets on, Athena is brought in to participate in the official investigation. Simultaneously, the girl begins to experience a series of cryptic dreams featuring a ruined library and an old book containing the saboteur’s true identity. As the police close in on their prize, Athena finds herself on a journey of her own. Her clue-filled dreams and incorruptible spirit bring her face-to-face with a pair of forgotten truths about happiness and gender. The world waits to see if men will return as Athena fights a separate battle, culminating in the choice that will define her and others’ lives forever.
I enjoyed this science fiction novel written by an indie author – particularly as it explores a world ruled by women. The women-led utopia is described as being free of war and poverty – though violence does rear its head a little. It is interesting to note that even though many women are described as not missing the presence of men, others are shown as hankering for their presence – even if they are unable to explain or express the feeling of loss in their lives.
The author presents the story in an interesting way: through the use of advertisements, newspaper articles, and through the thoughts of the main character. It is in this way that the reader learns the backstory of the novel and the presentation of information in this way certainly kept me on my toes. The novel’s pacing was pitched perfectly and at no time did my interest in the story flag.
The author uses the story as a vehicle in which to guide our thoughts on a futuristic world scenario. As the reader, we are guided to question whether the world would be a better place without the dominant sex. It is a question that the author ultimately doesn’t answer and one that the reader needs to determine for themselves. I enjoyed this thought-provoking novel and would highly recommend it, especially for those who enjoy thinking on the way in which our society is runs.
I have enjoyed Josie Jaffrey’s writing in the past and when she was looking for reader’s to review her latest novel, May Day, I sent in my application. I was happy to be accepted and read the novel as soon as it had arrived.
If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one.
It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake. When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does. To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die. Body bags on standby.
May Day is the first book in Josie Jaffrey’s Seekers series, an urban fantasy series set in Oxford, England.
I have enjoyed Jaffrey’s vampire stories in the past and looked forward to reading this one which is a little different from her usual as it describe the case of a Seeker – otherwise known as a detective. The author blends perfectly the world of solving a mystery with that of a vampire story. The mystery part of the novel was so well done that I often forgot that I was reading a vampire story!
Jack Valentine is the star of the novel – and I love her! She is sassy, brash, and takes no nonsense. I enjoyed seeing a strong female character in the story – one who makes mistakes and does her best to fix them. Another character that I enjoyed was Killian Drake. I hope to see more of him in other stories alongside Valentine as the connection between the two of them makes for interesting reading.
As with all the other vampire novels that Jaffrey has published, May Day is a well written story with pacing that has been perfectly pitched. I was thankful that I read this one while on break as there was no need for me to begin working. Instead, I was able to sit on the sofa and complete this story in one sitting.
If you enjoy detective stories and are curious to see how vampires would fit into this scenario, pick up a copy of May Day. You may be surprised by how much you love it.
Instagram is a wonderful place to meet like-minded book lovers. Through one of my buddy reads, I connected with someone who loves Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as much as I. She told me about a retelling that I had not yet read, Coming Up Roses by Staci Hart, and I decided I wanted to read it. The bonus was the realisation that Staci Hart is an indie author. When purchasing the novel, I decided to purchase the second in the series, Gilded Lily, as it was claimed to also have connections to Austen’s novel.
Genre of both novels: Romance, Contemporary, Retelling
Blurb for Coming Up Roses:
Everyone hates parts of their job.
Maybe it’s the paperwork. Maybe it’s the day-to-day grind. Maybe it’s that client who never knows what they want, or the guy who always cooks fish in the microwave.
But not me. I love every corner of the Longbourne Flower Shop, every flower, every petal, every stem. I love the greenhouse, and I love Mrs. Bennet, my boss. I love creating, and I love being a florist. I don’t hate anything at all.
Except for Luke Bennet.
The Bennet brothers have come home to help their mom save the flower shop, and Luke is at the helm. His smile tells a tale of lust, loose and easy. He moves with the grace of a predator, feral and wild. A thing unbridled, without rules or constraint.
When he comes home to save Longbourne, I almost can’t be mad at him.
He doesn’t remember that night I’ll never forget. That kiss, touched with whiskey and fire. It branded me like a red-hot iron. But it meant nothing to him.
Everyone hates part of their job, and I hate Luke Bennet. Because if I don’t, I’ll fall in love with him.
Blurb for Gilded Lily:
They say there’s no such thing as perfect.
But I’ve built my life to perfection—the perfect boyfriend, the perfect apartment, the perfect career planning celebrity weddings. My job—my only job—is to make sure every event is absolutely and completely perfect.
What’s not perfect? Kash Bennet.
And I wish I didn’t find that so appealing.
I could have told you every perfectly imperfect thing about the gardener at Longbourne. Like his hair, lush and black and far too long. Or his nose, the flat bridge of a Greek god, bent a little like it’s been broken. Or his size. Beastly. Roped and corded with muscles, gleaming with sweat and peppered with dirt.
There’s no escaping him, not if I’m going to use his family’s flower shop for my events.
But nothing is what it seems. And in the span of a heartbeat, my perfect life is turned inside out.
They say the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody new. When Kash offers his services to the cause, it sounds like the perfect plan.
What’s not part of the plan? Falling in love with the gardener.
But they were right—there’s no such thing as perfect. And I’m the fool who finds out the hard way.
The stories are VERY loosely based on Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The novels do address the theme of the original novel, and reference as well the characterisations of Elizabeth and Darcy – although the sex of the characters has been changed. What I loved was Hart’s representation of Mrs Bennett – it was spot-on and perfectly done. I loved it so much that I would love to see more of her in the stories (that seem to be a series she is currently writing).
The novels do not give an in-depth portrayal of the characters. Even though the characters do come to certain realisations, we do not see their growth and development towards these realisations and, in a way, the characterisations are superficial. Having said that, however, the format followed in general romance novels is that in-depth explorations are not expected.
I enjoyed both of Hart’s romance novels in this series. They were a perfect read for my mood – I wanted something lighthearted that did not encourage too much thought. The well written words made me chuckle and I did want to find out how the characters found their true love (after all, that is what happens in novels like these). If you enjoy romance novels as well as supporting indie authors, the series on the Bennet Brothers is worth picking up.
My final read during February was All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers. The novel is a fantasy story written by an indie author who contacted me to read and review her novel. I did so with no reservation as I do like to support independent authors.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian
Over a thousand years have passed since the first Godstones ripped through the skies and mangled the earth. With their fall came centuries of chaos and destruction, but also immense power.
Power that separates humans from Gods.
Now, in the Kingdom of Azanthea, two adoptive brothers flee from unjust conscription.
A fugitive struggles to truly be free.
A double-crossing warrior must choose where his allegiances lie: with his wife or with his daughter.
A traitorous heir to the Kingdom’s throne roams the lands in search of an army to call his own.
A prodigy in the House of Historian competes in a grueling trial to prove her loyalty.
And one God-King rules over them all.
I enjoyed reading this novel from the fist chapter as I got to know the world and the characters that inhabit it. I did wish for a map insert when I began reading but was soon able to familiarise myself with the world described without it. The story does have a dystopian feel to it as characters often refer to the life humans previously lived.
Rivers creates vivid images with her use of words which enabled me to imagine the world in which her characters live. As with all fantasy series, there are a number of characters to learn about. At no time, though, was I confused and instead grew curious as to how they would all connect. The author’s pacing is perfect as she slowly shows the connections throughout the novel. The connections make sense and left me wondering how they would all pan out.
The novel ends on a cliffhanger – and has left me wanting more! The story slowly builds towards it and leaves the reader with so many questions. These questions are generated naturally and are in no way forced.
Will I continue reading the series? Yes, I definitely will. Not only because the story has left me with unanswered questions, but also because the story is well written. I look forward to the publication of the second book in the series and to my continued enjoyed of the Highwings series. This novel is perfect for fans of Fantasy fiction and for those who enjoy reading series. In addition, you would be supporting an independent author.
Thomas Fenske, an independent author, contacted me to read and review his book. The blurb sounded interesting and I decided to give it a read as I do like to support indie authors.
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Sam Milton is just a typical, normal guy living an ordinary life until a chance deathbed confession changes him forever:
“There’s a gold mine out there … ya gotta follow the devil and look for the table, then turn around and you’ll see the why of it … I know it don’t make much sense but it ain’t supposed to until you get there …”
These words smolder in Sam’s soul for years and his obsession controls a life that is a solitary struggle for self and purpose. He works in secret, trespassing, lying, and doing whatever it takes to continue his quest.His long, lonely, and dangerous trips to the far reaches of West Texas cost him dearly in terms of time and money as he sacrifices love, friendship, and family pursuing his elusive goal.
When a solution to the riddle emerges … THE FEVER takes over and nothing, not even a new love interest, can stop him from recklessly planning another more challenging and perilous trip. He is certain that he will either find something out in the wilderness, or die trying.
I opened the novel with quiet expectation and hope. Unfortunately i was disappointed. Even though the novel was written using correct grammar, it did fall short of my expectations.
I had two problems with Frenske’s storytelling. The most obvious to me was the repetitive nature of the novel. The story is written from three points of view and often a character would repeat what had already been stated. I found the repetition tedious and was often tempted to skim over the lines in order to pass over what had already been stated by another character; or by the main character’s ruminations of the past.
The second issue that I had with Frenske’s storytelling is that he would often tell the reader information that could be inferred. I am definitely a reader who prefers being shown and not told and felt that the author did not trust the reader’s prior knowledge and instinct in determining what could have happened in the past. Being told everything did not engage me in the story and I felt no connection to it at all.
The Fever is grammatically correct but it in no way encouraged me to feel any emotion. The 277 page novel could have been written as a much shorter story which could have left me feeling a lot more satisfied.
I was excited to read the third novel in the Bulari Saga by Jessie Kwak. As I admired the cover of Pressure Point, I itched to crack open the pages and begin reading.
Genre: Science Fiction
Peace demands its price in blood.
Jaantzen may have brought stability to the city of Bulari, but not everyone’s grateful. Allegiances are shifting sand, and he’s made a miscalculation that earned him a deadly new enemy — one who plays a viciously different game than the one Jaantzen is used to winning.
Jaantzen and his crew fight to gain the upper hand, but secrets buried in shallow graves are coming back to haunt them. And as Starla and Toshiyo edge closer to understanding the growing mystery that’s been dropped in their laps, their search is awakening darker things than any of them can imagine.
Peace comes at a price, and this Pax Bulari could cost Jaantzen everyone he loves.
The pressure in Kwak’s story is definitely building in the third installment in Bulari Saga. The consequences of the action taken in the second novel are realised and the reader sees how the characters are figuring out how to deal with these consequences. What I enjoy is that the people in the story stay true to their character – each behaves as I would expect them too. I still have my favourites and I continue cheering them on as I read.
A little romance is developing in the story and it adds another dimension to the storyline. The romance shows that the characters are human and, as such, have feelings for one another. I am certainly curious to see where the romantic relationship leads; and whether it will change the decisions that will be made.
As with the previous two episodes in the story, Kwak’s pace is pitched perfectly. I could not help but turn the pages and found it difficult to put the novel down. And the end of the novel left me wanting more – I definitely cannot wait to read the next installment in the series!
In order to enjoy Pressure Point, it is important to have read the previous two novels in the series. But it is never to late to start reading from book 1! If enjoy reading science fiction and gangster-type stories, Kwak’s saga is one you need to pick up. You would enjoy the fast-paced tale with smatterings of humour and a touch of romance.
When Crossfire by Jessie Kwak arrived in the mail, I was so excited to read it that I placed it on the top of my TBR pile next to my bed.
Genre: Science Fiction
Trouble is dead. Long live trouble.
Killing the leader of a violent cult was supposed to make the city a safer place, but instead it created a power imbalance that’s left a deadly war raging in the streets of Bulari.
When Willem Jaantzen is approached for help by local casino magnate Phaera D, he has the sinking feeling the only way to end this war is to betray the people he loves the most. And he’s starting to suspect that Phaera wants more from him than just his help.
Whatever decision he makes feels like the wrong one. And as his goddaughter chips away at the mystery surrounding their latest discovery, bringing peace back to the Bulari underground is quickly becoming the least of his worries.
I could not wait to open Crossfire and continue reading more of the characters in the Bulari Saga. I was not disappointed and quickly became engrossed in the story.
In the second volume of the saga, readers get to know a little more about the characters that Kwak has introduced us to. My two favourite characters are definitely Manu and Starla. In Crossfire, I learn a little more about them and – to be honest – I want to know more! Both of them are shown as people who have experienced some difficult times. They are loyal and strong – and, like all people, have things on their mind and problems in their personal lives. Readers also get to know a little more about Toshiyo – the nerd in the story. I look forward with hope to learning more about her in the next installment of the saga.
Kwak has shared with us a story that is fast-paced and filled with action. I chose to read this novel during a time in which I could put aside all other obligations – a wise choice as I did not want to put the book down! The story picks up from where it left off in the first volume, Double Edged. Kwak adroitly moves the reader through the story with concise writing that creates images in the reader’s mind.
Crossfire is a story about the need to sacrifice personal desires for the good of the community. Jaantzen and Manu need to forsake their desire for revenge Of a sworn enemy in order to ensure that peace can be attained in their city. The reader does wonder, and hope, that their sacrifice is worth it and that Jaantzen’s plan to work with an enemy is fruitful.
As I read the last page of this novel, I wished I could read more. I will be waiting impatiently for the next volume. This fast-paced science-fiction story has me hooked!
Last year I discovered Josie Jaffrey, an independent author who has written a vampire series. I have loved The Sovereign Series thus far and look forward to its completion. I thought I would connect with Josie and ask her a few things I was curious about.
The Blood Prince, the third in the Sovereign series, is being released 20 February. Can you summarise the story up until now in a few sentences?
In the last city on Earth, a race of vampiric Nobles rules over the remnants of humanity. Julia, a human server, has caught the attention of two Nobles: one who loves her, and another who has rather darker feelings. Meanwhile, a Noble named Cam is trying to save the city by bringing back its old king and queen, but the monarchs are more interested in finding their missing son than in ruling their subjects. Both Julia and Cam are looking for a way to liberate humanity, and that’s where The Blood Prince starts.
Without giving anything away, what can we look forward to in reading The Blood Prince? There’s action, romantic tension, betrayal and an awful lot of zombies. As the book is the last in the Sovereign trilogy, it brings together all the threads from the previous books into a big, bloody climax.
I have enjoyed reading your story up until now Josie. And one needs to wonder – why vampires? What sparked your interest in writing stories about them?
I’ve always loved vampires. I was a huge Buffy fan, following every season as they came out, and I eventually ended up reading a lot of vampire paranormal romance stories. However, there was nothing that EXACTLY hit the spot for the kind of vampires I was looking for. I wanted them scary, and I couldn’t understand why all the books I read had worlds in which vampires were present, but not in charge. That made no sense to me. If they were as strong and powerful as all that, I thought that surely they’d take over the world. That was my starting point for the Solis Invicti series, which led naturally into its sequel series, the Sovereign trilogy.
One thing I am always curious about is a person’s writing process. What is yours? Are you one who plans? Or do you build the story as you go along?
I spend months or even years thinking idly about a story before writing much down, but after that I usually take a week to write out a rough plan for where the story is going. That might only be a sentence for each chapter, or I might have entire scenes in my head that I want to play out in a particular way. Parts of the story always suggest themselves as I go along, and I end up drawing in all sorts of details I never imagined would be in the story. I often simply design the characters, then wind them up and see where they go. Frequently, I have to stop and replan a novel when I get a third of the way through, because I realise that it’s suddenly going in a completely different direction. I try to go with the flow rather than fight that!
What can readers expect after The Blood Prince?
I’m going to be writing more in the world of the Silver, but not for a little while. I’m thinking about doing some prequel murder mystery stories set before the Solis Invicti series, so that’ll probably be the next thing I write in this world.
In the meantime, I’m busy working on projects that I hope to get published traditionally. Some of those are YA and some adult. The next thing I’m writing is a fantasy trilogy with a serial killer as the main character, which is something a little different, but still on-brand for me, I feel!