Someday I’ll Be Redeemed

by Kelly Blanchard
Reviewed by Sarah A

Happy Self Published Saturday! I’m so excited to share this book with you, that I spent the past week speed reading it so I could talk about it STAT – it’s quite a long book, and so full of incredible… well, everything… that I didn’t want to wait until next week.

Someday I’ll Be Redeemed is the first in the Chronicles of Lorrek series, set in a high/epic fantasy universe and infused with science fiction and technology. It’s full of political intrigue, plots, and magic, along with characters so complex they’ll have your head spinning. By the end of it, you’ll be devastated – and yes, that’s a good thing.

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Everyone thinks him to be dead–or guilty. Without a word or sighting of Prince Lorrek of Cuskelom these last ten years, all believe the rumors of his crimes, which he is said to have committed, are true. However, when he finally returns to clear his name, Lorrek realizes the only way to find redemption is to become the very man they think him to be in this time when advanced technology challenges ancient magic to war.

Musings

Lorrek’s been dead for a decade – only he hasn’t. When he appears at the gates of a neighboring kingdom, begging for sanctuary, he begins a chain of events that put the realms on the brink of war… but what really happened, ten years ago, that shattered the kingdoms?

I have to admit, at first, I was struggling to get into this book: the political back and forth is not usually my cup of tea, and took a little while for me to follow. The effort in world building here is outstanding, but the author has a lot to tell in so short of time that I felt overwhelmed by the information. But as soon as the ball is rolling, the story gets faster and more exciting, to the point where you cannot put it down.

This is especially true in the second half of the book, which takes place back before the events that sent Lorrek into Oblivion. Here, we have medieval fantasy characters coming to a realm of technological innovation in search of a cure for Lorrek’s cousin (and subsequent lookalike) whose magic has been infecting him. But no-one’s motives are as they seem, and there’s a lot more going on than anyone can realize… this for me was an outstanding portion of the book, and it had me completely engrossed.

And the ending? I have no words. Ok, maybe one – WOW.

Which is not to say I wasn’t impressed with the rest of the novel – the first half lays the groundwork, filling you with so many questions, while the second answers them, in such a way that you can’t help but notice just how intricate the plot really is. Everything is connected. And the way the characters grow and change in those ten years? Incredible writing.

Speaking of the characters, I just love them. Vix is by far my favorite: a brilliant assassin, who can be hard and cold but also adorable and romantic. There’s a depth to her you hardly ever see in fantasy women. Even the villains aren’t 100% evil – we see their motivations, we even root for them at moments.

Stylistically, the author could have done with a little less repetition: sometimes a sentence would pull me out of the story, which got a little annoying. But no matter. The story is what counts, and Blanchard has crafted a complex narrative with brilliant world building and relatable characters. I just can’t wait for the sequel!

You can purchase Someday I’ll Be Redeemed here on amazon, in ebook and paperback. Don’t forget to check out the sequel, I Still Have A Soul!

Dream Stalker

by Amy Hopkins
Reviewed by SA

It’s Saturday! Which means I’m going to share with you a fantastic self published book and give you your next favorite binge read. This week, we all need a little more magic in out lives, so I’m going to tell you about a series I adore: Talented, by Amy Hopkins. The first installment, Dream Stalker, perfectly blends a murder mystery with a divided magical world.

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All Emma wanted was to sell her enchanted teas in peace; instead, she’s caught up in the chase for a killer who’s stalking the streets of London. He’s targeting half-bloods, people with limited magical ability. People just like Emma. The police are baffled by the long string of deaths, but they’re not willing to put in the legwork to make an arrest. After all, magic users can take care of themselves, right? Except, those with real power don’t give a damn about half-bloods. So, when Emma wakes from a strange dream that nearly gets her killed in the waking world, she knows she has to deal with it herself. With only her boggart shop-assistant and the two strange men who have offered to help, can she thwart the killer and make the city safe again?

In universe of Talented is just like ours, only with one small change: some people have magic. Oh, and there are the Fae. There are those with magic – the eponymous Talented – those without – mere mortals like us – and finally, the half-bloods, or half talents. With one magical parent, they have enough magic in their system to be considered above the mortals, but are shunned by the elitist Talented society. Caught in the middle, it’s hard to make do.

Emma is a fantastic character who captures this divide in society. She integrates herself in the community by fashioning magical teas, which she sells to mortals, fae, and talented alike. She’s got her trusty dog by her side, as well as Gibble, a boggart indentured to her family. So when she’s almost murdered in her sleep, she takes it upon herself to find who’s been trying to kill half-bloods before it’s too late.

What I love about her is just how darn relatable she is. At moments I felt like I was looking in a mirror. She’s kind, but a bit of a badass when she has to be brave. She loves her dog more than anything and is ruthless when it comes to finding the truth. Even when the secrets she needs to uncover have something to do with her…

The mystery is really fascinating and gripping. You really get pulled along for a wild ride, spanning across the city and another universe as well! Like a good Sherlock Holmes mystery, you can put the pieces together yourself if you’re paying close attention, and yet the ending and the reveal still manage to surprise you.

Hopkins has really managed to create a universe which feels real and plausible while at the same time capturing that little sense of wonder that made Harry Potter so much fun to read as a kid (and even now). A world in which Magic and Mortals walk side by side, but maybe not always with such enthusiasm. A world in which people born into both belong in none.

This is a strong start to what I feel is going to be a fantastic series. A lot of questions are answered but many are not, relationships are formed and may grow stronger, secrets are revealed that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next.

All books are available online, starting with the first one, right here!

 

IRIS – Interview with ANDREW GATES

by Andrew Gates
Reviewed by SA

I have a special treat for you today! There’s a new book about to hit the shelves, and I just can’t wait to tell you about it. Iris is the science fiction novel you’ve been waiting for without knowing it: with the scope of Game of Thrones, and the feel of Asimov, it’s destined to become your new SciFi addiction.

irisebookSummary

The Surface was just ancient history…

Year 200, Atlantic Federation Calendar. It has been two full centuries since the surface of the Earth was destroyed and humanity retreated to the bottom of the ocean. No one is old enough to remember the world outside the station they now call home. Life is peaceful in this artificial world. There is no war. Crime is low. But questions are raised once an experimental submarine is attacked during a routine test mission. The enemy is unknown. There are no leads. For the first time in generations, a long isolated city will have to confront what may lurk above the surface.

This multiple POV novel is the perfect simmering science fiction thriller. Its character driven plot is brilliantly executed: the novel reads differently depending on who you follow, and who you want to believe. For some, the Atlantic station is corrupt and full of government cover-ups. For others, it’s just home. Good and evil depends entirely on who’s talking.

The worldbuilding here is remarkable. You begin to really imagine what life is like in this secluded base on the bottom of the ocean floor. At moments, it was claustrophobic, while at others it is a world of endless possibilities. The author fantastically shows us different lives down in the station, and through them we live this new, odd life.

But what if no-one knew the truth? A mystery simmers below the surface. What has attacked the sub? Is the Atlantic Federation good or corrupt? And where are the other stations that are supposedly down here with them?

I have to say, I love a good mystery. This novel is a killer thriller and the ending had me begging for more. So many questions left unanswered!

Luckily, some questions we might get answers for: I had the great privilege of interviewing author Andrew Gates about his upcoming release, and his plans for the sequels.

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An Interview with Andrew Gates

Readcommendations: Let’s start at the very beginning. Your novel is incredibly unique, combining some great SciFi concepts with exciting new ideas. Where did the concept for IRIS come from?

author-photoAndrew Gates: Great question! I haven’t actually gone into this yet with anyone.

The idea originally came to me when I was in middle school, if you can believe it. Back then the story was called Atlantis. A lot of it was the same. The main character was named Iris. She was a teacher. She lived in an underwater city in the future. The story only got to be like 8 pages or so. It didn’t really go that far. For years the idea was dormant.

In my senior year of college, I learned an interesting piece of trivia. Apparently, in ancient cultures all across the world, no matter where you are, the last color to get a word was always blue. You could be in ancient Egypt, Aztec, China, wherever. The last color to get a word was always blue. It’s the color that appears the least in nature, and even though it’s in the sky, ancient people would see the sky as nothing. The sky was like the absence of color. In fact, there are studies where they’ve found these isolated tribes in modern day and they’ve shown these tribes the color blue and asked them what it looks like and these isolated people don’t see it as anything different than green. But once these isolated people are told it’s blue, suddenly they can see it as its own color. So essentially, researchers have discovered that cultures can’t seem to identify colors until they have a word for it. I thought this was really interesting.

So I took this piece of trivia and I thought, what if in the future, our technology might move forward, but our general understanding of the world goes backwards? What better way to illustrate that than an advanced underwater city where nobody can identify the color blue? So then I started remembering this old story from middle school that never got off the ground and started to revisit this concept, only with the focus shifting. The color blue isn’t mentioned throughout the book, save for the final chapter. That’s why the series title is The Color of Water and Sky. It’s really all about the color blue, but not overtly so.

R: It’s such a dense novel, with so much going on! Can you describe the book in one sentence?

AG: Oh boy. It’s hard to do that without providing any spoilers. There’s an underwater city in the future and the people who live there think they’re safe, but now they may not be.

R: Coffee, or tea?

AG: Beer.

R: There seems to be an eternal struggle between “Traditional” publishing and then self publishing. How did you decide to self publish?

AG: I did a lot of research on that. My biggest hesitancy with trying to find an agent and publicist was that I would have to make a lot of edits. From what I could tell, it’s easier to keep the story the way I want it if I self-publish. I didn’t want a whole lot of people telling me how to change my story. I wanted it to be mine.

R: With a lot of different perspectives in the novel, there’s bound to be some favorites and least favorites. Who’s your favorite character from Iris, and why?

AG: Either Tracey or Sanja. Tracey is a paranoid anarchist. He’s a drunkard, blue collar guy. Sanja, on the other hand, prides herself on being part of the elite, where she feels in control. And interestingly, even though they’re enemies, they’re so similar. I think that’s the coolest thing about writing these characters. They’re so similar yet they think they’re so different. Anytime someone compares one of them to the other, they get so offended. Tracey is obsessed with anarchy and rebellion and Sanja is obsessed with totalitarianism and order. On paper, they might not seem the same, but they really are. They’re both skeptical of things that they shouldn’t be. They’re both worried about everything. And they can’t stand not being in control of the situation.

R: They were my favorite too. They’re incredibly complex characters, and the chifts in perspective make them such complicated people. But I’m getting off topic! What are your plans for the series?

AG: For a long time, I did not have an answer for this question. It’s only within the last few days actually that I have an answer. Everything I’m about to say is tentative and might completely change, but right now here is my plan: This part is kind of spoilery, so look away and skip to the next question if that’s your thing.

My original plan, back when I was just starting to write Iris, was to have four books. Iris was going to be the series name, not the book name. I was going to do four names that are single-syllable words starting with S. It would have been Iris: Sea, Stone, Sky and Space. But obviously that’s not what I decided to do. I abandoned that idea pretty quickly. I didn’t know how many books it was going to be after that idea, but within the last few days, I think I’ve settled back on four again. The tentative names are Iris, Kholvaria, Veznek and Hive. The scope of the story gets bigger and bigger with each book. It starts off very small and tight. The whole first book is in this small contained city. But as the series goes on, it’s going to get more and more expansive until we have an enormous world to play in.

R: That ending though… The second I put it down, I wanted more. So tell us, what can we expect from the sequel?

AG: You can expect the sequel to be a bit shorter and faster paced. Most of the questions you’re left with at the end of the first book are answered pretty quickly in the second book. Those that aren’t answered early on will be answered in book 3. The scope of the story opens up a lot and we see that there’s a pretty big conflict happening globally that the Atlantic Federation has been wholly unaware of. You can expect a lot of characters to return, even some you may have believed dead. We will also get a brand new perspective character, who I’m guessing might become my new favorite.

R: I hope we won’t have to wait long for the next book?

AG: It took me about two years to write Iris and another several months to do editing, promotional stuff, proofs, art and so forth. I expect the next book will take considerably less time.

Are you excited yet? Check out the official page for ore information, as well as the release date. If you’re a fan of hardcore science fiction, then you’re going to love The Color of Water and Sky!

Behind the Badge

by J.D. Cunegan
Reviewed by SA

Gosh, I’m a huge fan of Jill Andersen mysteries. It fills the hole in my heart that the cancellation of Castle left there. A brilliant, fast paced crime novel with an amazing, asexual lead? What more could I want? The bounty series continues to be one of the most diverse and dynamic detective series I have ever read.

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For Jill Andersen, being part of the Baltimore Police Department has always been both a tremendous honor and a serious responsibility. Her father, before his fall from grace, had instilled in her a great respect for police and the work they do day-to-day. But when a teenage boy winds up dead on the outskirts of downtown Baltimore, Jill finds herself once again faced with those who would abuse their badges to fulfill personal agendas and uphold biases.

Jill still has a job to do, but she soon finds that not everyone is in her corner. For the first time in almost four years working Homicide, Jill finds herself at odds with people who claim to be on her side. From other cops to suits downtown all the way to the Mayor’s office, it becomes increasingly clear that Jill will need to rely on more than just her badge if she’s to solve this case.

But even if she finds justice, what’s the price?

I was wondering where the author would take us, after the storyline with Paul, Jill’s father, wrapped up in Blood Ties. This time he tackles an issue that is very much ingrained in our day to day: police discrimination, black lives matter, and corruption. He does so in a way that is incredibly powerful, reminding us that there are so many different people playing in that equation, and that good cops will try to do their job no matter what.

Jill faces up against a powerful opponent: her own superiors. Her own colleagues. When she tries to do her job by the books, hurdles keep getting thrown in her way. Luckily for her, she doesn’t always need to play by those books: her alter ego, Bounty, is used to taking justice into her own hands. And with her secret out to her closest friends, she’s got support from every direction. So why is it still so hard to bring criminals to justice?

I loved how the author tackled current issues: this series still happens to be one of the most diverse ones I’ve ever read, with different PoCs, genders, and sexualities all coming into play – just like in real life. It’s one of the reasons I love the Bounty series so much: it’s one of the most down to earth crime series I’ve ever read, even if the main character is basically a superhero. All the sub plots are great, making me feel like I’m watching a TV show, giving me glimpses into the lives of the minor characters, who each lead very complex lives as well.

However, I feel like it might not have been as good as the other books in the series. The plot was a little more drawn out and there was a little less growth from the characters. Jill’s own development was very impressive, but I didn’t feel as attached as I did in the previous novels. Still, it was a great read which made my commute to and from work something I would look forward to.

All in all, a great new installment of the Bounty series. And I can’t wait for more!

Foul is Fair

by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
Reviewed by SA

This week we’re tackling an amazing fantasy novel for Self Published Saturday, a novel you’re sure to love: Foul is Fair, the first novel in the recently concluded Fair Folk Chronicles. It’s a brilliant book that takes you deep into the heart of Faerie, full of magic and danger… and dancing, too.

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Lots of girls play Fairy Princess when they’re little. Megan O’Reilly had no idea the real thing was like playing chess, guitar, and hockey all at once. Megan had known for a long time that she wasn’t an entirely typical girl. But living with ADHD—and her mother’s obsessions—was a very different thing from finding out she wasn’t entirely human. Somewhere out there, in a completely different world, her father needs help. There’s a conflict, revolving around Faerie seasonal rituals, that could have consequences for humanity—and if Megan’s getting the terminology straight, it sounds like her family aren’t even supposed to be the good guys. As she’s further and further swept up in trying to save her father, Megan may be getting too good at not being human.

When Megan discovers her dad – as well as her best friend – are mythical, she takes it all in one stride: she’s got a quest to follow! She has her father to save, let alone the whole world, the balance of which rests upon him being able to attend a dance that changes the seasons. She’s focused and determined, even without her medication, and she’s ready to take on this challenge if it means making things right for the world.

Megan is a skilled artist (thought she might be addicted to doodling) and begins to slowly see the power of music and signing. She’s got a knack for it, which some might call a little magic. I loved Megan as a character, and her friend Lani just as much. Their friendship is a powerful drive in Megan’s life and gives her strength and determination, as well as support as her world is turned on her head. And I’m such a sucker for female friendships in great novels.

My favorite characters, however, were not the main ones: no, I loved Cassia and Ashling a whole lot. Ashling might be my favorite pixie of all time: she’s sassy, funny, and crazy witty. Not to mention she’s technically living with a pixie disability, and her ‘service animal’ is a crow named Count who’s a personality all to himself. I’ve NEVER read a book like this before! Ashling’s comedic responses to Megan’s whole slew of questions – especially her variety of answers as to why Count is names Count  or where fairies come from – had me rolling on the floor laughing.

While some parts of the novel were exposition heavy, I found the overall creativity of the novel to make up for that. I loved the use of other myths from around the world that I had never heard of: Lani, for example, is part Menehune, which (I only just learned this) is a myth from Hawaii. This gives her a talent for engineering and creating things.

To recap all the amazing things about this book: great representation, love of art and music, love of science and creativity, the world of Faerie, myths from around the world, great adventure… and did I mention it’s a great read for any age?

“I’ve been a huge mythology nerd most of my life, so getting to play with the old myths, and have a series centered around the 4 treasures of Ireland, the 4 lost cities of the fae, and the 4 big seasonal events of the calendar was a lot of fun,” The author told me when I asked about his inspiration, “Thor #279 was one of the first things I ever really read, when I was 5. It sent me scrambling to learn the real myths. So I liked the idea of writing something where readers, especially teens, maybe could, or even would occasionally go running to google some of the things in the books, or read Celtic myth, Hawaiian myth, etc.”

And it worked! I ended up by starting to google “Menehune”and spend a few hours just browsing the interwebs, using this book as a guide. And I learned so much!

If you want a fun and creative take on the world of Faerie, then you’re going to love Foul is Fair. There are four books to this series, all available on amazon. The ebook for book 2 is on .99 sale on kindle through this weekend, as it is the summer solstice!

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The God Virus

by Indigo Voyager 
Reviewed by SA
It’s Self Published saturday! Today, we’ve got an awesome scifi novel from Indie Author Indigo Voyager: The God Virus. What a fascinating novel: pure science fiction at every level. I can’t think of a novel that works its way through every consequence of a premise like this one does. It’s so detailed, complex, and has fantastic characters you’ll love to follow.

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Infected by a DNA-altering virus, Derek and Alessandra develop strange and unnerving superpowers that challenge everything they thought they knew about the world ― allowing them to amass a fortune.

As they fall in love, they battle ruthless criminal mobs bent on harvesting the virus from their brains and intelligence agencies that try to enslave them.

When Derek signs up for an experimental drug treatment, he never expects to have his entire DNA changed. Soon, he’s able to experience out of body travels, and begins to develop abilities that stretch far beyond what is normal. Heck, he isn’t even human anymore…

After Allie contracts these same changes from him, the two of them are suddenly the only two people of their kind, and they’re hunted by everyone who wants to get their hands on this human enhancing ‘drug’. No one is safe: not Derek or Allie, nor their families, their friends… as the two fall in love with each other, they must fight the mob and angry governments in order to keep themselves, and everyone they love, safe from harm.

I can’t decide what I liked best about this book. As a scifi nerd, I absolutely the science behind it all. There was just so much in this book, and small, real sources and facts to back it all up. Do you remember the movie ‘Lucy’? This is how that movie could have succeeded. Humans outgrowing their humanity and becoming something more: backed by (somewhat feasible) science, and a thrilling plot that has you caring for them all the way through, urging them to succeed.

What marked me was, even as Derek and Allie stop being human, they never lose their humanity. They care so much about their families. This determination not only to care for their own, but to make the world a better place along the way, makes them incredibly likable. As they grow into their new abilities, they’re supportive of each other, and work through the hard times together. It makes them both relatable and lovable.

Surprisingly, all the ‘background’ characters have so much depth as well. From the mobster grandfather to the Hawaiian boyfriend, everyone has an intricate story to tell. When they were in trouble, you want to save them as quick as possible; while, when they were happy, you feel energized and excited for them.

The novel also deals with questions such as parallel universes and timelines; building and creating a society or civilization; making big bucks with stocks; Souls and Spirit Realms; and the Russian mob, too. As you can tell, there’s a whole lot going on!

All in all, if you need a good, complex science fiction novel, then you’re going to want to read The God Virus. It’s a fantastic, thrilling story which is incredibly memorable. Scifi fans everywhere are going to want to read more!

Purchase it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/God-Virus-Indigo-Adventures-Book-ebook/dp/B01CPM6R5M

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Gravitas: Valkyrie in the Forbidden Zone

by Lynne Murray

Reviewed by SA

It’s self published Saturday! What, it’s not the last Saturday of the month, you say? Well, I have been having such a great time reading amazing self published novels that I’m going to try to now do TWO self published Saturdays a month! (let’s see if I can pull this off!)

This month, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Gravitas: Valkyrie in the Forbidden Zone, an amazingly fun science fiction novel full of powerful women, angry warriors, and humans who’ll believe just about anything you tell them too. Fast paced and clever beyond belief, this book will have you wishing for more, begging for great science fiction novels like this one to fill your afternoons.

Summary

An urgent mission.
A woman with a past.
A dangerous burden.
Sybil, from Planet Valkyrie, carries a risky amount of Gravitas, a top secret aphrodisiac, to trade at a conference on ending slavery in her sector of the galaxy. Attacked by an angry warrior from slave-holding Planet Roggr, Sybil falls through an unmarked portal to land on Earth. The Forbidden Zone. Rescue is impossible. Portals to Earth are sealed. Sybil needs to defend herself, protect her hazardous cargo, and find a way home–while dealing with a damaging overdose of Gravitas.

In a remarkably unique take on the “Lost on Earth” scenario, we follow Sybil, a diplomat from Walkyrie, accidentally stuck on earth with no way home,  and it’s more than just a phone call away. Earth is in the forbidden zone, a planet that she should never be allowed to even get near to, after all those alien races came and influenced ours to worship them. To make matters worse, she’s carrying a very strong aphrodisiac in a necklace around her neck, and it’s driving her insane; she’s got her personal demons on call, and they have a lot to say; her long lost husband – the first one, while her three others are safe at home – has just reappeared in her life, and seems to know a whole lot about earth culture; and she’s being stalked but a lustful, obsessed warrior. To top it all off, Earth people don’t seem to take too kindly to big, powerful women. Sybil must navigate this strange planet, while avoiding getting stuck in the middle of feuding warriors, in order to get back home safely.

I think what really got me loving this novel was how the unusual plot just worked so well. All the elements mesh together in a tapestry of creative storytelling: starting off in media res with an exciting, somewhat confusing beginning, which allows you to get your bearings in this new book just as Sybill does on this new planet, then moving backwards to understand where this woman has just come from, then moving forward again while keeping certain elements hidden until later, the author manages to keep you gripped in the story by keeping everything quickly paced, and by making you care about the characters she has created.

Sybill is a powerful woman: there is no doubt about that. She comes from a Matriarchal society, has three husbands (not including the ex), can carry vast amounts of Gravitas, is well respected and given important responsibilities. Not to mention she is gorgeous: though Walkyrie tends to favor the larger woman, and, sadly enough, that doesn’t translate well to earth. She is strong, smart, and can hold her own in any situation. Not to mention she even manages to empower women on earth, though I will not spoil anything. I found Sybil wonderfully written, relatable even though she is alien.

The premise us unusual, the characters uncommon; it’s fun, it’s funny, with great moments which hit the science fiction high note. It was good to laugh so much.  I think my favorite aspect of this novel was the way the author incorporated alien tourism into world religions. It was incredibly funny to see how certain alien races, alien mannerisms, physical appearance, names, and multiple appendages could have influenced the birth of many religions around the world. Cultural heritage and practices somehow evolving from interaction with beings from another world? Something you hear a lot about in “Ancient Aliens,” maybe, but never tackled with such fun. It was clever to have THAT be the reason that aliens do not visit us anymore: humans are TOO kind, too prone to manipulation, even if it is accidental. Loved it.

The ending I found spot on; I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was a beautifully written scene. I don’t want to say much here, seeing as how I don’t want to spoil it, but it had me close the book with a smile on my face.

So if you’re looking for some fantastic science fiction, the classic great premise but with a modern, fresh take, you are going to absolutely love Gravitas. You can find it on Amazon, in epub and in paperback.

Check out more from Lynne Murray:

http://www.lmurray.com

http://lynnemurray.blogspot.com/