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.

Summary25512566

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.

Summary29498286

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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The Secret King: Lethao – New Goodies!

Not too long ago we reviewed this fantastic, self published novel. Now it’s time to share with you some great news:

THE BOOK IS FREE UNTIL THE 31ST!512borfpclzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

The secret King Lethao is the first book book of the epic SciFi adventure. Book one takes you on an epic journey as the Aonise rush to flee their planet before it implodes. But their journey to planet Earth is far from smooth. Treachery, secrets, danger and battles all make for one exciting novel.

The Secret King is free to download for just two more days. So get your copy now. Leave Reality and step in the another world.

On mybook, Facebook.

Their website is awesome, too. Lots of amazing goodies! Plus access to the Aonise dictionary.

The Audio books are just about to launch as well, so get excited! Enjoy!

FIRST LOOK: An interview with R.R Virdi, Author of Grave Measures and The Grave Report

What? Another self published Saturday? Can life get any better? Well, it just might. This is the first official interview we’ve ever had on Readcommendations, and we’re so proud to have R.R. Virdi as our guest. He’s even willing to share with us the first page of Grave Measures! 

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reading R.R. Virdi’s debut novel, Grave Beginnings (check out our review of it here) and was blown away by the fast paced and fun atmosphere of such a complex novel and brilliant universe. The concept alone was enough to make my mind race: a soul without a body, solving supernatural crimes by taking over the recently dead? Sign me up right now! And now, the eagerly awaited sequel is just about to be released. In Grave Measures, the stakes are even higher, and nothing is as it seems…

Summary

Grave MeasuresWhat do shadows darting across the walls, cryptic writing, black fog, and a little girl who can see ghosts have in common? Paranormal investigator and soul without a body, Vincent Graves, has forty-four hours to find out. To make matters worse, his years of body-hopping and monster-hunting are catching up with him. He’s losing his mind. An old contact has shut him out. To top it all off, something’s skulking through an asylum, killing patients. Three guesses who might be next, and the first two don’t count. The writing on the wall is not so clear. But one thing is: if he doesn’t figure this out he’s a dead man—well, deader—and a strange young girl might follow. Vincent’s got his back against a wall, and that wall’s crumbling.

Some days it’s not worth it to wake up in someone else’s body.

I have to say that the sequel is even better than the first: Graves might have a bit more time this round, but there is so much more going on than meets the eye. There might even be other worldly things involved… as well as other worlds, too. It’s got suspense that’ll get your heart racing, and twists that will make you jump out of your seat (I know I did, and no, I’m not exaggerating).

Graves also must face the consequences of the first novel, Grave Beginnings. A certain character is back – I won’t spoil who it is, but fans of the first novel will be in for a pleasant treat – and they’re not too happy about what they were put through. We also get to see a softer side of Graves, as well as get a few more hints about his past.

One things’s for sure: there’s so much happening in this novel, that I’m afraid to spoil a single part of it. Suffice to say it’s even more epic than the first, and for fans of the Grave Report, a must read. And if you haven’t read any of the Grave Report yet? Then you can find Grave Beginnings on amazon, right here!

We sat down and had a quick chat with R.R. Virdi, who told us a bit about the past, present, and future of his books.

Q: So let’s start at the very beginning. Where did you come up with the idea for the Grave Report?

A: I’ve always been a paranormal and urban fantasy buff with a huge love for mythology and anthropology. I didn’t know how to include all of that in a series until I came up with the idea of a character not limited to being in a certain place or body at any time. That meant I had a lot more options for stories, places, creatures and more. It sated my desire to tackle as many mythologies as I could. Enter the body hopping soul as my way to do it all!

Q: How did you come to the decision to self publish?
A: I had actually queried before in my life, not this novel, but older works. I had grown scared and reluctant to continue that process over and over. I figured under self-publishing, no matter what, my novel would be out there forever. It would give me the time and ability to grow, improve and nurture my series. That decision is doing wonders for me. Since then I have gotten a few trad publishing offers that I might look into for the future. For the moment, The Grave Report is continuing as an indie series.

Q: Your sequel is coming out in just a week. What do you have in store for us in Grave Measures?
A: Grave Measures debuts April 15th 2016. It’s going to follow up in the months after Grave Beginnings. Vincent’s choices and actions have had consequences, we’re going to see the fallout of those. And of course many new characters—good and bad.

Q: There’s a lot of questions we have about Graves that’s we’re dying to know the answers to… any idea how long this series will go? Do you have it all planned out in your head, or are you writing it as it comes?

A: I know where the series is going and it’s slated for around 20 novels with short stories and hopefully a few standalone novels in there as well separate from the main works. I have the important parts planned in my head, but the fun bits, the how I get there, is all written as I do it. I love it that way. I love the freedom, the creative surprises and evolution a story undertakes as it builds momentum.

Q: Now there are whispers of a new series you’re going to be breaking soon… something very different from the Grave Report series.

A: There are 😉
Q: You’re a very active member of the Nanowrimo community. How much of an impact does that have on your writing?

A: A great impact on getting my writing done. I’m part of a wonderful community that encourages me and I don’t want to let them down. They keep me writing.

Q: Your blog is probably one of the most motivational blogs for aspiring writers there is on the internet. If you had to pick just one piece of advice you could give to every writer out there, what would it be?
A: Keep writing! That will take care of everything else on its own. Improving your skill, building your works/bibliography, building your career and having you seen. Keep writing. It will make you believe in yourself and your ability to write. Keep writing. If you can write a novel, you can do the rest of the stuff in the business! It’s the same. Lots of hard work, but at the end of the day, just getting it done!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the first page of Grave Measures, appearing for the first time right here, right now!

There’s no good way of waking up in a dead body.

For starters, you feel like six pounds of crap in a three-pound bag. You have no idea where you are, you’re nauseated, and everything is disoriented. It’s like a bad hangover—with a dead man thrown in.

I blinked several times. Haziness and columns of white greeted me, peppered with the odd spot dancing across my eyes. The warmth spreading across the back of my neck prompted me to turn. “Ackh,” I sputtered as rays of sunshine shone onto my face, forcing me to squint.

I wriggled my body in an attempt to loosen it up and discovered another reason why it sucks to wake up in a dead body. My arms were bound.

And not in the fun and kinky way.

They were stretched across my chest in an awkward self-hug. Now I’m all for healthy self-esteem and loving yourself—straitjackets—not so much. I struggled with the restrictive coat, thrashing like I had been tasered. Nothing came of it. The durable canvas held together. Of course it would. I mean, that’s what it’s made for right?

My efforts succeeded in, first, exhausting me and, secondly, producing a trickle of moisture on my upper lip. A moment later, the stream of liquid trickled into my mouth. I tasted salt and copper. I let my gaze drift over my coat-covered chest. The muscles in my neck strained as I stretched and brushed my nose against the coarse canvas. Crimson blotched with darker hues of garnet smeared across the fabric.

Dead man’s blood.

A huge thanks to R.R. Virdi for allowing us to feature him on this blog, and to allow us to read his novels. Grave Measures might be out next week, on April 15th, but it is available up for preorder. Read it and get blown away!

Dissolution

by Lee S. Hawke
Reviewed by SA

Ah, Self Published Saturday! The day we here at Readcommendations celebrate amazing self published books that deserve a place on your bookshelf. And I have read a lot of self pubbed books this month, let me tell you! Yet none of them stood out to me as much as Dissolution, a brilliant (YA) science fiction novel which will have your mind in knots for days.

Summary29603794

What would you sell yourself for?

Madeline knows. She’s spent the last eighteen years impatiently waiting for her Auctioning so she can sell herself to MERCE Solutions Limited for a hundred thousand credits. But when the Auctioneer fails to call her and two suits show up at her doorstep, Madeline discovers there are far worse bargains to be made.

So when your loved ones are in danger, there’s a bounty on your head and your entire city might turn out to be a lie… what would you sell yourself for?

The future Madeline lives in isn’t a bright one. Toxic rivers, arid deserts: the world beyond the wall is beyond hope of saving. But her city, Unilox, seems to be a beacon of life and hope, minus the freedom. You see, the city is run entirely by corporations, and being a citizen means being a part of one of them. Not just as an employee… but as a purchased product what belongs to them. At 18, gaining citizenship means being auctioned off, and having your contract purchased by any one of these corporations. Your life belongs to them, and they decide your value.

But it’s a system that works. Everyone gets along swimmingly in this future: there are incredibly high tech body augmentations available to everyone, which allow you to have bionic eyes, or to have  tastes fed to your brain which make the nutrient mush you eat taste like anything you want. People are healthy, and happy. The problem is that they all wear collars.

Madeline belongs to ANRON, the medical corporation. They run tests on everything, and her own parents have payed the cost with their own health, being experimental themselves. Madeline wants to be purchased by MERCE, the tech industry, but when she isn’t even called up at the auction, her hopes of reaching her dreams are shattered. When she learns that ANRON never intended to give up her license, and they would rather have her on a metal slab to slice her open, she must make a daring escape to fight for her freedom in a world where only a handful are truly free.

Hawke creates an amazing world for us to fall into. The world of people as products and human auctions almost feels real, and somehow completely believable. From the first page we’re pulled into Unilox, and we’re rooting for Madeline as she nervously prepares to be sold at auction. Yup, we’re excited for her.

At first glance, you might think this looks like the ‘usual’ YA, but I’m here to tell you that it’s much much more. For one, you don’t have a silly love triangle getting in the way of the plot. Madeline’s relationship with Jake is something that both drives her and motivates her, and it’s healthy and heartbreaking. Honestly it was refreshing to read! Even though it broke me in the end…

The plot is also intensely gripping. Madeline’s only goal is to survive, and this leads her to discover the true workings of her city, and realize that it’s not right. We can’t help but cheer for her when she realizes what we’ve known from the start: that people are not products, and that companies may have the same rights as a human being, but they are only as strong as the people who make them up. But this makes the read even more enjoyable: a clear goal, a world bent on catching her, Madeline’s plight is something we can latch on to.

As a matter of fact, I would only call this YA because of the age of the protagonist (18). It is so much better than those ‘trendy’ books out there! The plot is rich and exciting. The protagonist is relatable and you want to root for her.  And the ending absolutely destroyed me, making me feel like I’ve been ripped apart. It is such a brilliant way to shut the book. And now I’m stuck here, with feels.

Trust me on this:  you won’t read another book like Dissolution. Pick it up on amazon STAT!

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DEGTLGK
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/dissolution/id1096943300?mt=11

The Secret King: Lethao

by Dawn Chapman
Reviewed by SA

It’s another self published Saturday! This week I’ve had the pleasure to read an amazing science fiction novel that needs to be in your hands immediately. It’s fast, gripping, complex, and reads like a season (yes, an entire season) of Battlestar Galactica. So if you want some brilliant science fiction, this is the book for you: now let me tell you why.

Summary26220955

Kendro, King of the Aonise, can do nothing to prevent their sun from collapsing, consuming their home planet Letháo in a single fiery blast. Running out of time and options, he evacuates the entire population, setting off into the unknown galaxy in four crowded ships. Under constant danger from their ancient enemy, the Zefron, treasonous dissent seeps into his inner circle. Threatened inside and out, Kendro struggles with who to trust, until a mysterious vision finally brings hope to the distraught King. A new home awaits the Aonise, if Kendro can only unite them long enough to survive the journey.

Their world is dying, and the Aonise must evacuate their planet, heading to the stars in massive ships in hope of finding a new world. But their journey is not without its threats: they are hunted by the Zefron, an ancient enemy who seem hell-bent on trying to destroy them, as well as whispers of treason from within. Kendro. the king of the Aonise and their hope for the future, must protect himself while trying to save his people, not to mention his wife and unborn son. The risks are great, and the journey ahead is not an easy one…

The first thing that hit me about this novel was just how gripping it was. Much like in “The Martian” (Andy Weir), the second the Aonise think they are safe, as soon as one problem has been solved, they are thrown head first into another life or death situation. There is never a dull moment or a lull in the plot. They must work together to save their species, or none will survive. Because of this constant action, the book is incredibly difficult to put down and is addicting as heck.

There are multiple characters to follow, which makes the book read a lot like a show. This brings you to different parts of the ship, and introduces you to many aspects of their culture and customs. They’re humanoid, but in many ways they differ completely from us humans, showing the quality of the author’s world building. For example, every Aonise is born with a birthmark, which differs from person to person and across the houses. Their life forces, if you will, contain actual power: Croex. It runs through their veins and has tremendous potential. It lights their birthmark with raw emotion, meaning their feelings are always on display. This, and the croex itself, binds the people together, the king connected to every single one of his people, feeling their pain and anguish as his own. It’s incredibly how the author has managed to make this aspect of their lives seem so natural to the reader when we have nothing like it here on earth.

It’s a space saga of epic proportions. Not only is there the military aspect, but the life of these characters is studied, we share in their loss and their loves and their joys. We are following in their darkest times and their greatest hopes. It gives us surprising emotion, for a science fiction novel. You can’t help but cheer for Kendro, whose faith in his people is remarkable, even when he knows there are those who wish him dead. Some of the storylines are a little more difficult, darker, like Octav’s for example: he has difficult decisions, with his home life falling apart and his own emotions in turmoil. Life on the run, trying to keep your people safe, is not easy.

All in all, as a Sci Fi fan, I got my fill with this fantastic beginning of an awesome saga. With brilliant world building, tough characters, and great writing, I’m hooked and I can’t wait for more. Hopefully we’ll get the sequel soon!

Grave Beginnings

By R.R. Virdi

Reviewed by SA

This week has been crazy! I’ve had my wisdom teeth out, which has made me less productive, which is weird because I thought it would give me more time to read. Thankfully, though, I have JUST the book to recommend to you all: the first book I ever reviewed, or at least, seriously reviewed; a fantastic, self published novel which deserves the spotlight. I’m talking, of course, about the amazing first novel of R.R. Virdi, “Grave Beginnings,” a unique urban fantasy story which grips you and won’t let you go.

Summary

Thirteen…
As far as numbers go, it isn’t a great one. Hell, it’s not even a good one and Vincent Graves is going to find out just how unlucky of a number it can be.
Because someone, or something, is killing people in the Empire state, and whatever it is, it gives people everything they ever desired and more. And it’s the more that’s the problem!
Well…it’s one of the problems.
Vincent’s investigation also seems to have drawn the attention of a relentless FBI agent and then there’s the little bit where he has only thirteen hours to solve the case, or he dies.
Talk about your literal deadlines…
…No pressure.
By the end of this case Vincent will come to understand the meaning of an age old proverb: Be careful what you wish for – because you just might get it!

Full disclosure, I love supernatural detective novels, but I have a hard time finding ones that are actually intelligent books. A lot pander to the reader, and have no true essence, no meat. They start to blend together, becoming boring, repetitive, copies of one another.

Not so for Grave Beginnings. Right from the the beginning, the reader is dragged into the story and clings on tight for the thrill ride. It’s almost impossible to put down – as a matter of fact, I read almost the entire book in one sitting. it’s addicting, catchy, and it’s one of those books you want to shove into your friends hands as soon as you can.

The story centers around a soul who wakes up in the body of a dead man. This soul, Vincent Graves, is somehow caught between this world and the next, and to move on, must solve supernatural murders by inhabiting the recently deceased. The man he is now walking around as – Norman – recently came about an extreme bout of luck, which left him looking younger, thinner, and with a lot more money in his pocket. But it didn’t last long, because something put him in the ground quite soon after. Our hero has thirteen hours to solve his murder, before he must move on again.

Virdi masterfully plays with the myths of the supernatural, introducing us to a whole new host of characters, drawn from the most unlikely of folklore. It’s always great to see a fresh take on the supernatural: too often these days authors limit themselves to taking old myths and making them sexy for a general audience. You won’t find that here – no sexy vampires or werewolves, thankfully! Instead, some intriguing myths that I don’t want to spoil for anyone. Also, gnomes. There are gnomes, and not in the way that you might think.

Graves is a character with a lot of spunk and sass. He’s witty, and sometimes uses pop culture references to help deal with an impossible situation. It makes it a whole lot of fun to read his point of view: as serious and deadly his situation may be, he always has time for a funny remark. It adds so much depth to his character: as weird as it might be for him to be trapped in between bodies like this, he’s still a fascinating person in and of himself.

Seriously, this book should be a TV show. Or a movie. The plot is just so fun, so compelling! Ask anyone who’s read this novel, they’ll all tell you just how much they adored it, or how they devoured it. It’s pure , intelligent, fun. If you like the Dresden files, Supernatural, or Castle, then you’ll adore this novel.

Now here’s the awesome news: it comes out in print TOMORROW. As in, starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to buy this fantastic novel and hold it in your hands; you’ll be able to put it on your bookshelf, sure, but more importantly, you’ll be able to shove it into all of your friends hands. because you know that’s what I’ll be doing.

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/

Bounty

by J.D. Cunegan 

Reviewed by S.A.

Here comes my favorite day of the month: Self Published Saturday! A day to celebrate some great self published novels that deserve some serious attention. Topping my list this month is the fantastic debut novel by author J.D. Cunegan – Bounty, simultaneously a murder mystery and a superhero novel, akin to the TV show Castle in sheer fun-factor.

Summary

Jill Andersen is one of Baltimore’s best and brightest detectives, but she harbors a dark secret — a secret that
threatens to come out when the body of Dr. Trent Roberts is pulled out of the Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Roberts’ connection to Jill reveals a past that involves a tour in Iraq, a secretive cybernetic experiment, and a conspiracy that involves a native son. 

Can Jill solve the case while still keeping her secret? Will her partners at the Seventh Precinct find out what she’s so desperate to hide? What was Dr. Roberts looking into that led to his murder? And perhaps the biggest question of all… 

Who is Bounty?

If I had to write a one word review of Bounty, I would say this: Fun. This novel was pure fun, start to finish. You never really know what to expect when picking up a self published novel, but this one really grabbed me and would not put me down. I binge read this novel in about two hours, and loved every minute of it.

Jill is one of those characters you can’t help to love. Stubborn and headstrong, she is made up of 100% determination… and maybe some titanium, and a few other upgrades. Part of a secret semi-gorverment project which aimed into perfecting the soldier, Jill is not your average woman. Now a cop in Baltimore, she hides her secret well, while using her upgrades to close cases, and do a little vigilante work of her own.

She was the main reason I loved this novel so much. First of all, I need to mention – Asexual representation! Yes please! But other than that, her determination and smarts really make her a character to cheer for. You want her to succeed. In a way, she reminds me of Beckett in Castle – I actually pictured her as Jill for most of the novel.

Just because she’s quasi-indestructible doesn’t mean she can do everything herself, and she’s not afraid to ask for help from some great supporting characters. Her cop friends at the precinct are brilliantly written characters, bordering on the cliché, while still managing to hold their own and become unforgettable in their own right.

The fun also came from the well written action scenes, and the superb pacing of this novel. Whenever things turned slightly slow, the author would send you back in time to visit history spanning a lifetime. Scenes from a childhood, eye opening chapters revealing what a dead man had once seen and lived, heart-wrenching passages that made you connect with Jill like never before. Back in the present, you have action packed sequences in dark offices or on rooftops. Never a dull moment. And the twist – I should stop before I spoil anything.

I felt like the villains were not fleshed out a whole lot, but that’s possibly because there’s more to come in the sequel (Blood Ties, January 2016). It may be in need of a bit of editing polish, but overall I didn’t feel like it distracted from the reading experience. I was also surprised that a huge, underlying plot was being laid down, but didn’t seem to get fleshed out – again, I bet the sequel will take care of that.

Bounty is available on Amazon kindle and paperback. If you want a fun, fast read, you’re going to love this novel. Also available, a prequel novel called Boundless – equally as fun.

Sounds of War

by Cindy Chen

Reviewed by SA

I love doing Self Published Saturday! I really do! I get the opportunity to read, and share, books I would not have even known about if it wasn’t for the amazing self published community. It’s when reading books like Sounds of War that you really wish the book was a physical copy rather than an epub, so you can shove it into all of your friends hands. I really did not expect this book to be as beautiful as it was, and everyone needs a chance to read it.

Summary

People were dying. Bodies were lying along the streets. Air raid sirens were about to go off at any moment. Nobody was shown any mercy.

For Anna, life had always been about music. An aspiring pianist and composer, she studied at the renowned Leningrad Conservatoire under some of the greatest musicians to ever walk the face of the Earth. Her studies came to a halt, however, when Nazi troops surrounded Leningrad in September, 1941, intending to shell and starve the city into submission. She watched as her once-beautiful city transformed in front of her eyes: people became living skeletons, their only food being a mere 125 grams of ration bread a day; buildings were reduced to rubble, pieces of bricks and broken glass strewn along the streets; cats, dogs, rats, and horses disappeared as people chose to eat them instead. One by one, the citizens of Leningrad were losing hope, and Anna was desperately trying to find a reason to hold on and a way to continue…

What a fantastically beautiful book.

I’m going to say it right now: I’m not into music. GASP. I listen to it, any kind, but it’s usually just something to keep my mind focused on a project or two. Never did I think I would actually GET it. Somehow, through words, by creating sound out of ink and letters, this novel made me suddenly love music. It made me see how powerful a few notes and cords could be. I was transported to a world of sound and song through a novel about war. The trips to the Conservatoire, the piano playing between friends and family, Anna’s dedication to writing music: these moments truly came alive for me, and managed to resonate like real music would.

All this cuts a sharp contrast with the description of wartime Lenningrad. The beauty of the music clashes with the death and despair on the streets of this city, and as a reader, you truly feel the pain and anguish of life there. It’s terrifying: while the music really is beautiful and warm, the description of life in 1941 makes you feel cold inside.

Chen really has a way with words: from creating music out of thin air, to creating sorrow on the next page, you wonder if you’re even reading a book at all anymore. I devoured this book in a one hour bus ride, and was so enthralled I almost missed my stop. Even when I got off the bus, I had five pages left to read, so I sat down at the stop and finished it. I really was transported to wartime Russia. This book is a real gem. Its subject matter is hard, and at every page you turn and think: “Wow, how can their situation get any worse?” – spoiler alert, somehow it does. The author never seems to exaggerate, creating an environment which felt wholly realistic to me.

Anna herself is a great character: she’s realistic, relatable, and determined. You feel her emotions through the pages, you yearn to reach out a hand and pull her out. But when she plays music, you really feel as if you’re seeing the real Anna. She dwindles when she’s away from an instrument for too long.

The relationship that develops between the protagonist and her best friend is just as realistic as the rest. An atmosphere of “Will they, won’t they” sometimes hung in the air, (or in the pages I should say), and I was so pleased it didn’t go the way or the popular historical fiction (I’m trying so hard not to spoil anything). It’s a friendship I envy, one with mutual respect, a shared passion for music, and with honest conversation.

But yes, this book is painful. It’s set during WWII, after all. if there wasn’t the beauty of music to soften it, I would have lost it – which I think is the point! There is death, loss. Pain. Horror. Moments you wish you could put the book down, if it wasn’t so darn addicting. The ending, however, is perfect, and makes all the pain worth the read.

Make sure you pick up this amazing book!