From the Editor’s Desk: The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey

Welcome to my final post from 2015! The next time you hear from me, it’ll be January. Frightening, right? Don’t worry, though, I will be back with lots of new content, book reviews galore, and a few spiffy giveaways. Not unlike the one I introduced last week (hint, hint).

But before I go on my annual mini-hiatus, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite reads of the year. Yes, it is one I had the privilege of working on, but so much of how that happened felt guided by fate, or chance, or serendipity, or whatever name you prefer that I fully believe this book was meant to find its home at REUTS, and I was honored to be part of bringing it into the world.

So, without further (sappy) intro, I give you . . .

The Untold Tale

by J.M. Frey

The Untold Tale cover

Forsyth Turn is not a hero. Lordling of Turn Hall and Lysse Chipping, yes. Spymaster for the king, certainly. But hero? That’s his older brother’s job, and Kintyre Turn is nothing if not legendary. However, when a raid on the kingdom’s worst criminal results in the rescue of a bafflingly blunt woman, oddly named and even more oddly mannered, Forsyth finds his quaint, sedentary life is turned on its head.

Dragged reluctantly into a quest he never expected, and fighting villains that even his brother has never managed to best, Forsyth is forced to confront his own self-shame and the demons that come with always being second-best. And, more than that, when he finally realizes where Lucy came from and why she’s here, he’ll be forced to question not only his place in the world, but the very meaning of his own existence.

Smartly crafted, The Untold Tale gives agency to the unlikeliest of heroes: the silenced, the marginalized, and the overlooked. It asks what it really means to be a fan when the worlds you love don’t resemble the world you live in, celebrates the power of the written word, challenges tropes, and shows us what happens when someone stands up and refuses to remain a secondary character in their own life.

I knew from the moment I heard this book described in passing by the author’s agent that I was going to love it. I could just tell, like an instinct. And I was right. Frey’s tale is bold without being preachy, innovative while still being familiar, classic with a modern twist, and is easily among my all-time favorite reads ever.

Forsyth Turn is a swoon-worthy hero, though he is admittedly not what one pictures when they think of the leading man in an epic fantasy-adventure. Insecure, flawed, and adorably awkward, he’s real. But he’s more than just the point-of-view character, he’s the lens through which Frey paints her extremely relevant, extremely important message. Through him, we meet Pip, a woman who epitomizes what it means to be a fan, and who’s been literally pulled into her favorite fictional world. And through him, we watch as all the prejudices — intentional or otherwise — of the fantasy genre (and fiction in general) are brought to light.

The beauty in this book is that yes, it does challenge the tropes of the genre, and yes, it does give power to those who are too often overlooked, but it does so without sacrificing a single shred of expert storytelling at the altar of “message.” This isn’t a book with an agenda — it’s an example of what great literature should be: unabashedly inclusive and a reflection of reality. It is most definitely thought-provoking and an intelligent discourse on the state of literature, but at the end of the day, it’s the story of two people learning about themselves, facing down their personal demons, and falling in love.

The Untold Tale is written in a modern first-person present tense, and yet still somehow manages to evoke the spirits of literary greats (it has an Austen-like quality to me, though the author disagrees). Raw, often dark, and powerfully real, this is the kind of book that sticks with you long after you’ve read it, and I could not recommend it more.

In fact, you can enter for a chance to win a copy over at my Holiday Giveaway. And if you’d simply like to purchase it, click on the links below. 😉

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

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

Happy Black Friday to my followers in the US. I know most of you are out there trying not to be trampled in that sacred tradition of scoring the best deal and likely won’t see this until next week. That’s okay. I understand. I’m not online either. 😉

But for everyone else, I bring new content. Yay! Yes, it’s a book review, brought to you by this here lovely book tour:

Sachael Desires Blog Tour Banner

But it’s still new content. That counts for something, right?

Anyway, on to the book! It’s a great one, and it’s brand new. So be sure to go grab a copy if you think it sounds like your cup of tea.

Sachael Desires

by Melody Winter

Sachael Desires by Melody Winter

During her ordeal with the Sect, Estelle Bailey dreamt of escaping back into the arms of the sea—and Azariah. But freedom came at a price, and though she’s back with the Sachael who’s stolen her heart, she’s also land-bound until the next full moon. And with the threat of Orontes looming ever larger behind them, Azariah, Estelle, and Michael—her once-captor turned rescuer and friend—are on the run.

Following Michael’s lead, they seek sanctuary amidst the natural beauty of the Orkney and Shetland Islands until Estelle can complete her next submergence ritual and Azariah can whisk her away to the safety of Saicean.
​ ​
Secrets, betrayals, and old enemies await them, though, and as events spiral out of control, Azariah makes a decision that puts all their lives at risk, forcing Estelle to face a journey she never wanted to take. With time running out and tempers running high, her only hope to save the man she loves lies in a reconciliation between two kingdoms who despise each other.

Book Two in the Mine Series, Sachael Desires further expands on the intricate underwater world of the Sachaels, and the hostility and isolation of not belonging.

Picking up where Sachael Dreams left off, Sachael Desires is exactly what you hope for in a sequel, suffering none of the sophomore-book blues that plague so many other series. Everything we loved about the original is back — the setting, the characters, the romance — but paired with all the excitement of something new.

One of my favorite aspects, apart from seeing the cast again, was the attention Winter paid to the world-building. We finally get to see the mythical Saicean, but even more importantly, we get to see the underwater world of the Sachaels and Oceanids in all its brutality. Richly described and realistic, Winter paints a portrait that is both fantastically imaginative and thought-provoking, providing subtle commentary on things like human nature, identity, sexism, ableism, and racial profiling within the fabric of Estelle’s journey.

Filled with twists and turns (and several pretty notable revelations about some of the characters that I won’t spoil), Sachael Desires is much more action driven than its predecessor.

The first book featured a plot that felt like romantic suspense with fantasy elements, but this one feels like an action-adventure blockbuster, with sweeping settings, beautifully crafted and well-imagined worlds, and an epic battle just waiting to be interpreted on the silver screen. And Winter manages to do all of this while still developing her characters and their relationships, peeling back the layers of their lives piece by piece to give us carefully timed glimpses of the whole.

While entirely satisfying as a follow-up, it is clear that there is much more still to be discovered in this world and series. And I, for one, cannot wait to see what happens next.

Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

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