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 Kenneth Oppel’s middle grade novels in the past and was excited to receive a signed copy of his latest, Bloom, at the OLA Super Conference this year. The line was long and I spent a long time in it but the wait was worth it.
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Science Fiction
They take over fields and twine around houses. They bloom and throw off toxic pollen—and feed.
Strangely, three Salt Spring Island teens seem immune. Anaya, Petra and Seth. What’s their connection? What’s their secret? A week ago, they wouldn’t have thought they had one.
But they’d better figure it out fast—the invasion has already begun.
I loved this book so much that I read it in one sitting! The novel is fast-paced and filled with tension – I could not help but turn the pages. Bloom is an excellent choice to get children reading: it is filled with adventure and tension featuring middle grade children.
Children and adults are fighting for survival on the planet. We don’t read much about what the adults are doing – but the group of children featured in this story are doing plenty. They are getting to know one another – and to know their own strengths in a changing world. All three characters (Anaya, Petra and Seth) are good role models and show children that they could contribute in a situation no matter what their strengths and social status.
Oppel has done it again! He has created a story that will engage readers with the written page. Bloom is the first book in a trilogy and I cannot wait to read the next installment.
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.
At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: Crier’s War by Nina Varela.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT
After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.
Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.
Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.
Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.
Goodreads describes Crier’s War by Nina Varela as a Fantasy novel. While reading it, however, it had more of a science-fiction feel to me as it describes a world that is overtaken by human-made creations. The novel describes a possibility in a far distant era on Earth, and not on a mythical land.
The story describes a contrast between the Human and the Automae: two creatures that are at odds with one another and who both want their freedom – the Humans from enslavement of the creatures they created; and the Automae from their dependence on the humans. The politics of the Automae reflects the ideology followed by many humans in today’s world; a worldview that centres on keeping one’s culture and race separate from others.
Crier’s War is not just a story set in a possible future. It is a story that deals with separatism, as well as with being different. It is a story that reflects a realisation – and then acknowledgement – of difference within one’s self. It is a story that hints at the possibility of living in harmony (a possibility that I guess will be explored more in the second novel of the series). And it is a story that explores humanity and what it is to be human.
The two main characters in the story – Ayla and Crier – experience a growth throughout the novel. I enjoyed seeing their own self-realisation unfold as I turned the pages. The more I read about them, the more I grew to understand them and to like them as characters. It is a beautiful thing to see a young person come into their own and Varela describes their unfurling subtly and gently.
I enjoyed the world created by Varela as well as the characters that people her world. The novel ended on a cliffhanger and at that perfect moment. Now I need to wait for the release of the next in the series – and I am hoping that it is not a long wait. I need to know what happens next!
If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction stories, you will enjoy this one. In addition, it is a queer story with beautiful character development of young people. This is a series that I have every intention of completing.
On Tuesday when I arrived home, I saw that a parcel had arrived for me: the brown box sat on the table beckoning me to open it. I did not recognise the sender and lifted the flap with curiosity. A pleasant surprise was revealed and I gave an inner squeal of delight when I saw what was inside.
Inside the box was the latest book in the Bulari Saga – a science fiction series written by independent author Jessie Kwak. I love her writing which is fast-paced and intense. And the characters she has created are well-rounded. I have placed the book on top of my TBR pile and look forward to enjoying it once I have completed my current read.
This week I am grateful to have received a copy of Pressure Point by Jessie Kwak to read and review.
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!
I received Crossfire by Jessie Kwak and eagerly picked it up to read as I had enjoyed the first novel in her Bulari Saga. Yesterday found me sitting on the sofa reading the story until it was done – I could not help it, I had to now what would happen!
“Pitch darkness is strange. It’s claustrophobic, shrinking down the entire world to the amount that fits into your awareness, a palm-sized space where your breath leaves your body, your organs thrum in your chest cavity, you feel the tiny, disconnected sensations where parts of your body press against unknown objects. But it’s also expansive, your potential environment no longer confined by the physical walls that once hemmed you in. Pitch darkness is what your imagination makes it.” (p298)
(2019, Independent Author)
In Crossfire, I have learned more about Kwak’s characters – and I am getting to love them. I also enjoy the writing – it is precise and the imagery is on point.
One of the genres I enjoy reading is science fiction. When I look back on my teen years, I remember reading the Dune saga by Frank Herbert with enthusiasm. I loved the otherworldly places he described, as well as many of the characters he created. The Star Wars films were also a favourite and hearing the theme song would make me think of the futuristic planes and personalities.
Moving location to the other side of the world meant I had to leave my books and films behind. Seeing the novel House Atreides at a library book sale reminded me of my enjoyment of Herbert’s writing. It may be time to re-read the saga.
It had been a while since I had read a good science fiction read and was thrilled when I picked up Double Edged by Jessie Kwak to discover that the good writing kept me interested and on the edge of my seat.
“Level C hits Manu like a physical thing: the scents, the din, the crush of people. Manu pauses in the entry, taking it all in. The air is heavy with fry grease and engine oil and voices echo off the high ceiling, jumbled so it’s hard to pick out anything individual. Warring news and music programs blare from the lunch stands, callers hawk wares as they wander the crowds, and the buskers and street performers only spike the chaos” (p36)
(2019, Independent Author)
The novel is gritty and realistic. And I loved it. A reader can almost forget that it is set in a futuristic environment.