Circle Unbroken

By M.A. Kropp

Reviewed by SA

When I picked up this book, I admittedly had no idea what to expect. But I was quickly hooked:  Science Fiction AND magic? I’m being spoiled here! Circle Unbroken is an awesome mix of two genres, masterfully woven together into a strong story. Intrigue, plots, and schemes? Sign me up!

Circle UnbrokenBook Blub

When your family runs the mining operation on a planet that supplies a long-depleted Earth with needed resources, there are bound to be those who would like to see you fail After five years away with the Interstellar Security Corps, Kaili is coming home after the death of her grandmother as a key participant in the ceremony to install her sister as head of the company and the ruling planetary council. She and her partner land in the middle of old resentments and new threats.

Like all of her people, Kaili is gifted with psi abilities developed over generations living in close harmony with their world- what outsiders see as magic. The ceremony investing her sister with her new positions will be a formal ritual, and Kaili, as her sister’s closest relative, will complete the binding Circle.

Accidents and unrest are growing in the mine operations, and Kaili and her partner, Jeff, uncover evidence that her sister will be formally challenged at the ceremony. When Kaili goes missing right before the ceremony, and returns with no apparent memory of the past few days, Jeff  knows something is not right. He will need to use a little magic of his own to make sure Kaili is ready to face the family’s enemies. If not, it could mean both sisters’ lives.

I really loved bringing magic into the mix of a science-fiction driven universe. It somehow doesn’t seem out of place: we know little about where these abilities come from, just as the characters still haven’t solved this mystery. Jeff, the captain of the Slingshot and Kaili’s ISC partner, is awkward in a magic-driven society, but he doesn’t write it off as hocus-pocus when he sees what people can do. And for the people of Geb, living with magic on the one hand and a thriving mining industry on the other is just everyday life for them. It was interesting to see what an advanced, space faring civilization could do with magic on their side.

Kaili is caught between two worlds, the world she was brought up in, with magic and ceremonies, and the world she has chosen to live in, the world of the ISC, where things are driven by technology and work. She’s smart and determined, even working on scientific research to try and figure out why the psi abilities of her planet will not work in hyperspace. Even when worse comes to worst, she keeps her head up and doesn’t stop fighting. A great protagonist in this universe.

I did really like the characters: Jeff and his space-captain attitude, Humfrid and his cheerful fatherly demeanor. The mystery revolving around who could be trying to sabotage the ceremony makes you watch everyone incredibly intently, and the depth that was shown demonstrated the author’s fantastic writing skills.

The mystery itself is slow growing – is there a plot, or are they paranoid? Who is involved if it is? I honestly did not see the ending coming, or at least, I didn’t see the full scope of it until very late. It was a great amount of suspense.

However, with the story revolving around this slow mystery, it made the plot a little slow itself. I was wondering when some great incident would come rippling through their lives, and was surprised then there wasn’t some huge intergalactic event. Not to say that the mystery wasn’t compelling, only that it threw the pacing a little off.

Circle Unbroken is a fun and enjoyable book, set in a universe I’d quite like to see more of. Hopefully we’ll get to hear more from Kaili and Jeff in the future!

The novel is set to come out on August 18th, but the author is hosting a pre-sale event: if you purchase the novel anytime between August 2nd and 17th, you will receive a free download of TWO other books by the same author!

Find it on Smashwords. Enjoy!

The Think Happy Club: Friendship

by Anne Saucer and Grace Snoke

Reviewed by SA

This month, we’re doing something a little different. We’re doing to have two self published Saturdays! Why? Because I thought the 31st was a Saturday. Nope, it’s a Friday, so the last Saturday this month is today. All this to say I’m reviewing TWO self published books! One today, and one next SScreen Shot 2015-07-25 at 7.18.11 AMaturday.

Just like this book, my review will be short and sweet. Another book we’re not used to reviewing on Readcommendations, but I enjoyed it so much I feel like I need to share it with you. It’s a small, cute, illustrated advice book on the value of friendship and the methods of keeping a friend close and valued.

It’s one of those books you may get a friend as a gift, to remind them how much you love them; or a book you may hang on to yourself, to reming you of how you can show your friend they mean so much to you. Honestly, when I read it, I instantly thought of it as a book for adults, while it was only after that I saw it as something children would love too.

It’s incredibly sweet, with such advice as “Listen: don’t just hear the words, but their meaning and emotion” or even “Share the Same Melody”, things that seem obvious, but as human beings, we frequently tend to forget to do. It’s so very nice to have a little handy guide to put us back on track. Reading it filled me with the “warm fuzzies” and made me want to hug my besties closer. Truth is, we’re losing touch these days, relying too heavily on our social media without knowing how to act outside of it. This handy guide will guide you right back on track.

I loved the illustrations. They were, just like the book, incredibly sweet. The style reminds me a lot of the Japanese chibi (“cute” cartoons) though gently painted like a water color. They’re not in your face, they’re just bringing the advice to life, one smile at a time. It’s what gives this little gem its charm: they connect with you. They looked ready to hop out of the page and hug me.

Friendship is the first of these little guides in the series, the Think Happy Club, and I would love to read more.  I wonder which one they’ll think of next! It’s great for kids and adults alike, and does exactly what it sets out to do –  it’s “filled with inspiration images focused on improving or changing things in our lives” and promoting healthy relationships. We all need a little of that in our lives.

Check it out on Amazon and the Think Happy Club website.

Black Dys and the Deflowered Virgin

by W. Harlan Herbert

Reviewed by SA

It is with great pride that I bring you Black Dys and the Deflowered Virgin, the first book we’re reviewing as part of our Self Published Saturdays! Every month we will bring you one great book by a self published author that should not be missed. Hopefully this will encourage readers to discover great books they would not have otherwise known about.

If you’re looking for adventure and magic, then this is truly a book you need to read STAT. It’s got everything the classic adventure tale has: an amazing cast of characters, mystery, intrigue, trickery… as well as wizards, zombies, and pirates.

Dys cover_1aSummary

Dyschoraf Pan Weiglin, or Dys for short, is in a tight spot. He has no memory of the night before, yet now he’s got blood on his sword, he’s in bed with Veleria, the virgin daughter of the high priest of the Hopping Toad, and he seems to have stolen the most cursed book of spells his masters at the Five Points. Now he’s on the run, Veleria by his side, desperately trying not to get caught by demons, wizards, or any high priest and his following who aren’t too keen on having their favorite virgin taken away. Who knows, maybe he’ll be better off sailing the seas with a bunch of pirates…

Oh gosh, how this book was fun! The story was a non-stop thrill ride, with Dys going from one situation to another before you could blink an eye. The way he rolls with it, adapts and changes to his new situation, makes you think you’re reading many different novels at once, without them actually disjointed. It starts off as fantasy, with magic and wizards, but soon you’re reading a different tale, that of pirates and treasure and plots.

The characters really bring this story to life. Dys is a smart man with a terrible past, and even without emotions he’s got a depth and dimension you don’t always see in fantasy novels. Vel is a cunning woman, and she surprised me by how quickly she picked up the ways of piracy, showing that she is more than just a priest’s daughter.

But it is the band of pirates that really shone for me. While I had a little trouble keeping up with everyone present (who’s who here?) they were all such colorful characters that I enjoyed every minute with them. I particularly likes Tack, their captain, who just so happens to be a kind of elf that appears to be a small child. This leads to some pretty hilarious looking images when you read some of the fight scenes.

What elevates this book though is the fact that it also has a rich, unique universe, and its own variety of magic, with its own rules. It’s very interesting to learn about Dys’s skills, and how he uses them, but also his limitations. The fact, for example, that spells erase themselves after use, even from the very mind of the man or woman who cast them. I found this unique perspective on magic fascinating.

If this was a movie, though, it would have to be rated R. For our younger readers out there, you may want to be careful, as the language can get a bit rough. It’s a little explicit, and definitely not for everyone. Personally, I thought it added a nice touch, bringing some of the more colorful characters to life. So fair warning: Sex/violence/language run amuck.

One thing that I found a little odd, however, was how quickly a key point could be forgotten. Some interesting threats were announced at the beginning of the novel… and never came back. The variety of the plot sometimes made it feel disjointed: the ease in which Dys slips from one persona to another is either a testament to his ingenuity, or an overuse of luck and coincidence. I’m not sure how I feel about this, though it did not stop me from enjoying the novel. I would have liked to have seen more of Vel, though!

Overall, this novel was fun, fun, fun. It was fantasy, adventure, a hint of satire. Check it out on July 1st, on amazon.com. It is well worth the read and sure to become a favorite!