From the Editor’s Desk: Sachael Dreams by Melody Winter

Who noticed that I recently revamped the page I store these reviews on? Anyone? No? Well, I did. You can check it out later if you’re curious. 😉

In the process of said revamp-age, it came to my attention that I’d been remiss on posting my thoughts for a few of the titles I had the privilege of working on. To those authors, I’m sincerely sorry, and I will be fixing that shortly.

First up on that roster is a lovely romantic fantasy, whose sequel just so happens to be dropping in a few short months. But first, the obligatory disclaimer/explanation:

As an editor (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their production phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors who trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

Okay, now we can get to the review.

Sachael Dreams

by Melody Winter

Sachael Dreams by Melody Winter

Twenty-two-year-old Estelle Bailey has had enough of busy city-life and her hot-tempered ex. She escapes to the seclusion and peace of her family’s clifftop home in Ravenscar, where the soothing solitude whispers to her soul as strongly as the sea itself does. But her newfound contentment is interrupted when a mysterious man — a Sachael, master of seduction — joins her midnight swim unexpectedly.

Estelle struggles against his charm and the overpowering attraction she feels for him. He offers her a life she never could have imagined, a life beneath the waves . . . but at what cost? Before she can decide, she’s captured, ensnared by the Sect, a secret enemy of the Sachaels, becoming a pawn in a war she knew nothing about.

Now, she’s left with a new choice — escape the clutches of the Sect and flee into the ocean, or side with her alluring, intimidating captor and destroy the Sachaels forever. Can she turn her back on the man she might love, or will the secret of her heritage change everything?

Set against a picturesque backdrop, Sachael Dreams is the first in a new series, exploring themes of romance, love, and identity, and the struggle that happens when all three collide.

The first thing I remember thinking about Sachael Dreams is: what a brilliant premise. Not unlike a wave crashing to shore, it landed on my desk and instantly captured my attention. The paranormal romance/romantic fantasy genres are heavily saturated with angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, and a plethora of other supernatural critters, but Winter managed to do the unexpected — she gave us a brand new creature altogether.

Estelle’s story is not a peaceful one; kidnapping, escape, fight scenes, and arguments litter her tale with splashes of suspense. But those moments of tense action and drama, while exciting, are perhaps not the most memorable elements. For me, the enchantment of the story lies in its tone, ambiance, mystery, and passion.

Lyrical and detailed, Winter’s prose transports us to the setting with a mastery that had me nearly smelling the ocean breeze on my home’s very non-ocean-oriented air. Realistic and gripping from the moment you start the Prologue (yes, there’s a prologue, and it’s handled with supreme efficiency), Sachael Dreams is like stepping into an ethereal world that’s maybe just a tad dark around the edges.

Even the romance, which is central to the book’s core, starts with an almost Phantom of the Opera-like vibe, and the sinister nature behind the mysterious Sachaels lends a tinge of danger to the relationship unfolding between the lead characters. Add to that Estelle’s personal history (alluded to for much of the book and revealed fully toward the end) and a villain bent on revenge, no matter the cost, and you start to see why the story’s tone is heavier than your standard romance.

Winter makes sure to give readers plenty of swoon-worthy, romantic moments though; don’t worry. But my favorite scenes were actually those where the sheer raw emotion — often of the darker variety — really bubbled to the surface: the arguments between Estelle and Azariah, the heartbreaking moments of loss and grief, even the tortured rage of the villain. All of them were handled with a grace and poignancy that is nothing short of impressive.

Darkly beautiful and intriguing, Sachael Dreams is the beginning of what is arguably a refreshing, original take on mythology from a promising new author. Fans of romantic suspense, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance would be wise to check this one out. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to watching this world, and author, bloom into their full power.

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

From the Editor’s Desk: Diverging Cadence by Katie Hamstead

Many of you also follow me on social media (I think), so it’s probably not a surprise that I’m posting a review for this. Anyone who saw my tweets about it knows that I swooned hard for this series. And since I already reviewed Deceptive Cadence, it wouldn’t be right to let the second one pass by unnoticed. Plus, I’m part of this here nifty blog tour:

Diverging Cadence Blog Tour Banner

But, because I was also part of the team that worked on it, I have to do the obligatory disclaimer first. So, for those of you who already know what that means, feel free to skip it! For everyone else, here’s the rundown:

As an editor (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental/production phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors who trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

All right, on to the book review!

Diverging Cadence

By Katie Hamstead

Diverging Cadence Cover

When Cadence Anderson woke to find her husband and infant daughter had been killed, she thought her life was over. Instead, she was offered a second chance and sent back in time to do it all again.

She’s made the most of this opportunity, repairing her relationship with the best friend she lost the first time, avoiding the romantic mistakes she made originally, and even bringing her family closer together. But she’s also done something she wasn’t planning on — she’s fallen in love with someone other than her future husband.

Stepping onto a plane and flying across country to attend university is the hardest decision she’s had to make. But unless she follows through with it, her future with Austin might never happen. And what becomes of her beautiful baby if she stays with James, the man she was never supposed to love?

The only thing she knows for certain is that she has to see Austin again, and she’s intent on reliving that part of her previous life exactly like she did the first time. Even if that means she has to lie to James to do it. Because, deep down, she can’t quite bring herself to let him go.

Now, past and future are about to collide, and Cadence has to make her final choice — follow the uncertain path of a life with James, or the one she came back to save . . . with Austin.

In this emotional conclusion to the story that began in Deceptive Cadence, relationships will be tested, identities revealed, and the past will overshadow the future, putting the finishing touches on an unforgettable tale of courage, sacrifice, and, above all, love.

Diverging Cadence picks up where Deceptive Cadence leaves off, but not in typical sequel fashion, where you’re quickly brought up to speed even if you missed the first book. No, to truly experience the emotional roller coaster that is this series, you have to read both, and preferably back to back. Together, the duo create a traditional narrative arc, with Diverging Cadence being the latter, more appropriately tense, climatic portion. And trust me, the emotional pay-off of reading the series in its entirety is well worth the investment of time.

The second half of Cadence’s journey encompasses her adult life — attending college, finding independence, marriage — but is fraught with turmoil unique to her slightly supernatural circumstance. Namely, her decision between forging a new path and reclaiming the life she returned for. Unlike other love triangles, the relationship drama rings with more than a shred of truth, as Cadence wrestles between letting go of the comfortable (her relationship with James) and exploring the promise of her life with Austin. Hamstead expertly crafts a scenario that is heartbreaking, torturous, often maddening, and ultimately human. Cadence is allowed to make mistakes, to make the wrong choice, and the consequences of that speak volumes.

I won’t lie, there were many times that I felt uncomfortable with the choices Cadence made, and there were quite a lot of tears shed during the last third of the book, when we’re finally shown the horrific earthquake scene in real time, but the final resolution more than made up for all the heartbreak. It’s poignant, beautiful, and exactly what I wanted as a reader. Hamstead will rip your heart out before you get there, but that makes the ultimate satisfaction all the more powerful.

With beautifully simplistic prose, Hamstead captures a cast of characters who feel entirely real by the end. Flawed, human, and brilliant, Diverging Cadence wraps up all the threads left dangling at the end of Deceptive Cadence, providing a conclusion to a tale that will likely haunt me for years to come. If you’re looking for a light, upbeat story, this might not be for you, but if you want a thought-provoking tale that tugs on every element of your empathy, I cannot recommend this series enough. Seriously. Read it. Now.

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

From the Editor’s Desk: Deceptive Cadence by Katie Hamstead

I know, I know. Many of you are eagerly awaiting the post involving “voice” that I’ve been hinting at across social media. But I already had this one planned when the inspiration struck for that, so it will be next week (as long as I can formulate my thoughts on the topic into coherent and helpful advice by then).

However, this week, I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour for Katie Hamstead’s newest release: Deceptive Cadence. (Look! Pretty blog tour banner!)

Deceptive Cadence Blog Tour

 

But because I was also part of the team that worked on it, I have to do the obligatory disclaimer. So, for those of you who already know what that means by the post’s title, feel free to skip it! For everyone else, here’s the rundown:

As an editor, (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors that trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

All right, now that that’s out of the way, on to the book review!

Deceptive Cadence

By Katie Hamstead

Deceptive Cadence by Katie Hamstead

Cadence Anderson has the perfect definition of happily ever after . . .

Until she doesn’t. A freak earthquake shatters her life as surely as her home, taking away everything she holds dear. She wakes in a hospital to find that her beloved husband and infant daughter have been killed, crushed by the earthquake’s wrath. Disoriented, injured, and alone, Cadence refuses to accept the loss. So when a man claiming to be her guardian angel appears and offers her a chance to go back in time to save her family, she doesn’t need to give it a second thought. She accepts.

Thrust back eleven years, she now faces the ordeal of high school all over again. But this time, she’s armed with all the knowledge of her adult life and the determination to do everything better, from preventing the loss of her best friend to avoiding her original, drama-inducing boyfriends. She’s focused solely on Austin, her future husband, and is content to bide her time until she meets him again.

But then James Gordon crosses her path. Cadence wants to remain single, but James has his sights set. He is determined to win her over, and he’s very hard to resist. As Cadence starts to develop unwanted feelings for him, she realizes he threatens to disrupt everything, changing the future and distracting her from her original goal. Now, Cadence must choose: deny the unpredictable and exciting path James offers her, or stay true to the life she had and is trying desperately to resurrect. Second chances are more complicated than they seem.

Deceptive Cadence combines the soaring emotion of a heartfelt romance with the innovative storytelling of magical realism, crafting a uniquely moving, intricate tale about love and loss that asks: what would you do if given the chance to right all your wrongs?

Every now and then, a book comes across your desk and you just know you’re going to love it from the second you read the blurb. Admittedly, Deceptive Cadence was not that book for me. The premise was intriguing, sure, but it didn’t necessarily grab me immediately based on the concept. But boy oh boy was I wrong about that. This book is, in a word, brilliant.

Hamstead’s latest seems deceptively (yes, pun intended) straight-forward. As the blurb indicates, it’s about a woman who abruptly loses the very definition of “happily ever after” and is then offered a second chance. Now, I know some of you are probably having the reaction I did — okay, how is that different from every other redemption romance? The answer is in the execution.

What seems on the outside like a simple narrative is actually a multi-layered experience akin to biting into a Gobstopper. Just when you think you have it figured out, another flavor appears. Hamstead’s writing sings off the page as she weaves a poignant, resonating tale that is simultaneously heart-warming and heartbreaking.

Cadence’s journey forces her to relive a time that most people would rather die than face again — high school. Filled with all the usual teen angst and drama seen in contemporary young-adult fiction, readers may wonder why the book is being targeted at a NA audience. Again, the answer is in the execution. See, what sets this apart from every other teenage love story is the fact that readers witness it much the way they would reminisce over their own memories, meaning it’s filtered through adult Cadence’s perspective. This future hindsight (for lack of a better way to describe it), allows Cadence to approach her choices and relationships with the maturity and understanding of her future self, thereby revealing the point of the story: a thought-provoking idea that will have you asking what you would change if you had the chance to go back and fix your mistakes.

Layer that philosophical foundation with a magical realism approach to storytelling and fantasy, the twists and turns of a mystery, and the emotional resonance of a beautiful, conflicted romance, and you start to see why Deceptive Cadence is aptly named. Hamstead brilliantly captures the intricacies of navigating relationships with a realism that is nothing less than impressive.

I may not have been a fan from the second I read the premise, but I devoured this (and the as yet unreleased but coming very very soon second half) with an all-consuming need to find out how it ended. By the time I reached that ending, I knew that Deceptive Cadence would forever be one of my all-time favorite stories. It haunted me for days afterward, and has turned me into a lifelong, devoted fan of Hamstead’s work.

So don’t let this one fool you. It’s amazing, and I highly HIGHLY recommend it. It does end with the dreaded “To Be Continued,” but fortunately, I believe the second half will be available very soon. And trust me, it’s well worth the short wait. 😉

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

From the Editor’s Desk: Gambit by C. L. Denault

Welcome to Book Review Wednesday! This week’s edition brings you a post type that I haven’t done in a while and that I will be resurrecting periodically. (I’ve been horribly remiss in posting all the awesomeness REUTS Publications unleashed into the world over the past year. Sorry to all those authors who are still waiting! A review from me is coming, I promise.)

But first, let me remind you what these posts are all about. As an editor, (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors that trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

All right, now that we’re all on the same page, I bring you my review of . . .

Gambit

by C. L. Denault

Gambit by C. L. Denault

 

In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

Gambit lays the foundation for a traditional coming-of-age tale, following Willow Kent’s journey — metaphorically and physically — as she grows from a young woman into the woman she’s destined to become. However, it’s definitely the beginning of a much larger tale, so don’t expect to see that journey encapsulated in this initial book. It’s a trilogy, and this is only the first third.

What you should expect is to be introduced to a world that is at once fresh and yet familiar at the same time. Set in a future where our current society has crumbled and humans have evolved, Willow starts her life in what feels like a medieval throw-back, a village in the remnants of what used to be Scotland. Infused with all the charm of Pixar’s Brave, we’re shown a snapshot of Willow’s life as a tavern keeper’s daughter.

But that life is soon swept away when an officer from the highly technological Core arrives. He’s looking for a missing heiress, a child stolen from one of the prominent Core families and hidden away in the Outlying Lands. That child is Willow. Suddenly faced with an identity she knew nothing about, Willow is forced to sacrifice everything she knows in order to protect the ones she loves and is thrust into the terrifying, fast-paced, intricate world of high society at the Core’s very center, where your DNA defines your worth.

Denault’s prose is captivating, painting her world with a mastery that instantly had me swooning. (Yes, editors swoon over words. Why are you surprised?) And speaking of swooning, the romance. While the hot and cold relationship between Commander Reece and Willow may bother some, it reminded me of the type seen in the classic narratives of Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters. It evoked a subtler, highly charged and passionate style of romance that is rare in modern literature. The kind where things like differences in social station and perspectives on propriety create tension and subtext that goes beyond physical attraction. Does Willow have a tendency to fall for gorgeous men, feeling pulled in several directions at once? Yes. But you know what? She’s sixteen. That’s what sixteen-year-old girls do.

In fact, that’s one of the things I loved most, that the protagonist, Willow, is actually allowed to be a teenager. She’s sixteen and catapulted into a world she has no idea how to navigate. She throws tantrums and makes mistakes, and it’s okay, because she’s sixteen. Unlike other young adult books that often have characters acting with a maturity well beyond their supposed years, I appreciated that Willow’s struggle felt genuine to her age.

I’ve loved Gambit from the second I stumbled on it on Figment.com (under its then title of Prodigy), and I still think about it, months after I’ve finished reading. It’s engraved in that special part of my brain reserved for all-time favorite titles, and I expect the characters and world will haunt me for years to come in the best possible way. For me, that’s the ultimate goal, finding a book that gives me a book hangover so intense I never truly recover. Gambit fit that bill for me.

One part Pixar’s Brave, one part X-Men, one part Pride and Prejudice, and one part My Fair Lady, Gambit is a magical debut from a brilliant new author. And all I can say is, “Sequel now, please!”

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | REUTS Publications Bookstore

And, as a special surprise, the author has donated two signed copies for a couple of you lovely folks to fight over. That’s right, I said SIGNED! Whether you’ve read it and love it as much as I do, or whether you’d just love to get your hands on it, here’s your chance. It is open internationally, and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, June 17th.

To enter, simply click HERE. Good luck!

 

From the Editor’s Desk: The Works of Scott Hughey

Wow! It’s been ages since I’ve done one of these.  I’m slacking. Who here even remembers the premise of these posts? No? Let’s refresh our memories, shall we?

As an editor (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors that trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

Today’s edition brings you a dual entry from talented new author Scott Hughey. First up, his novella:

Already Seen by Scott Hughey

It isn’t every day your wife dies in a car accident, twice. For Nathan Summers, discovering he can reset time, and change the future by focusing on a moment in the past, is easily the best thing to happen to him . . . this week. Okay, ever.

He can’t wait to use his ability to get one-up on his perfect, cocky, and successful brother-in-law, Wade, who’s the kind of son his mother always wished she had. Only, Wade knows all about resetting time, and he warns Nathan that they aren’t the only ones who can do it.

Alice, is a mysterious woman who will do anything to gain power while eliminating the competition. She learns that Nathan shares her talent for twisting time. Now she’s kidnapped Nathan’s wife, and framed him for a horrendous crime.

With time for Nathan’s wife running out, Alice offers an exchange. Nathan’s wife for his reset point, and his life.

Already Seen is a fast-paced, brilliant thrill-ride with a side of snark. Containing one of the best opening lines — “The first time I killed my wife, I made a horrid spectacle of myself.” —  it combines humor, reminiscent of the TV show Chuck, with the multi-layered storytelling mechanic of Inception. I knew from the second I read its premise that I was going to love it, and Hughey didn’t disappoint.

Nathan is a normal guy with an average life. He’s married, works as a cell phone salesman, and has a complex about his perfect brother-in-law. But all that changes when he discovers he has the ability to morph time. Triggered by a car accident that results in his wife’s death, he suddenly finds he can jump back to a set point in the past, an ability that gives him unlimited do-overs.

But he’s not the only one who can manipulate the future, and he soon discovers that having this skill makes him a target. Wade, the always perfect brother-in-law, also has the ability, but for once, he’s on Nathan’s side. There’s an enemy greater than their petty rivalry, and she has Nathan in her sights. Determined to collect his reset point for her own, Alice kidnaps Nathan’s wife, setting him on a path that will take him as far out of his comfort zone as possible. But maybe, with Wade’s help, he just might be able to survive.

Loosely based on the idea of video game save points, Already Seen is a well-written, original take on the idea of time travel. With shades of superhero awesomeness, and infused with moments that are both heartfelt and poignantly human, this novella is easily one of the best things I’ve read so far this year. The prose is effortless and laced with Hughey’s signature wit. My only complaint was that it ended. That said, it is a self-contained novella, and the ending is definitely satisfactory.

I really can’t recommend this one enough. So, before we move on to his other work, here are the buy links for Already Seen:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

And now, the second offering from Scott Hughey:

Journey into Memory and Other Imaginary Places by Scott Hughey

 

What happens when you can travel through feelings and memories like others can travel down the road? And what would happen if a werewolf, a vampire, and a zombie walked into a bar?

Enjoy this collection of fantasy and science fiction short stories, ranging from light-hearted comedy, to dark and poignant sci-fi drama. This collection contains two 100-word stories, for reading in a flash, two traditionally sized shorts, and end with a novelette sized story for a longer read.

This Is Not A Bar Joke- What happens when a vampire, a werewolf, and a zombie all walk into a bar at the same time?

Cheating Death- It’s Death’s first day on the job, and he’s already messed things up.

Don’t Feed the Fairies- A nine year old girl tries to manipulate the tooth fairy, and as a result has to confront her fear of wolves.

Bad News Bear- Ever wonder what really happened to Goldilocks? Surely three talking bears with (apparently) opposable thumbs wouldn’t let her get away so easily.

Journey Into Memory- Kris Lichnev had everything. A beautiful family, a new world to raise them on, and a dream job. In that world, money really could buy love, along with any other emotion, and Kris was one of the few people with the ability to sell. So why did he give up his luxurious life? More to the point, what made him suddenly willing to start digging through those memories again and sale them on the black market?

Journey Into Memory (I’m truncating the title for the remainder of this review) is an anthology containing works of several different lengths and tones. This is Not a Bar Joke is perhaps the most quintessential in terms of Hughey’s comic abilities, but my personal favorite is the longest of the collection — Journey Into Memory. As much as I enjoy Hughey’s sarcasm and often dark sense of humor, it’s his ability to craft intricate, complex narratives that really captivates me as a fan. And Journey Into Memory is nothing if not intricate.

Kris Lichnev is a broken man when we first meet him. He once had everything he wanted — a beautiful family, a dream job, all the things humanity strives for. But an accident ripped it all away, claiming his daughter’s life and his marriage in the process. Now, he wants it back, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, including selling emotions on the black market.

The story itself is tragic and beautiful and will tug on your heart strings, but the idea of emotion mining, of sifting through memory and collecting the feelings contained within, is downright brilliant. The narrative is structured in such a way that you see both the past and present unfold simultaneously, creating a rich experience that rivals the depth of many longer works.

If you’re a fan of shorter fiction, or looking to discover a promising new writer, I recommend checking out everything by Scott Hughey. I suspect we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of what his talent has to offer, and I, for one, will be waiting not-so-patiently for him to release a full-length novel. In the meantime though, I will snatch up anything he chooses to publish, and highly recommend that you do the same.  Here are the buy links for Journey Into Memory, so you can do exactly that:

Amazon | Goodreads