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

From the Editor’s Desk: Forever Kinda Love by Clara Stone

I know, I know. Another book review? This one’s a little different though, as it features one I actually had a part in bringing about. Remember that series of posts? No? Well, here’s your refresher then:

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 the latest release from Clara Stone (aka Priya Kanaparti):

Forever Kinda Love

by Clara Stone

Forever Kinda Love by Clara Stone

Life’s. Little. Surprises.

The last thing seven-year-old Carrigan “Ace” Casper foresaw was an eight-year-old Heath Lovelly walking into her life the day her mother died. From that moment on, Heath sticks by her side, slowly becoming her strength, her confidant, and her entire world. What she doesn’t know is, she’s his saving grace, too.

Ten years later, Ace is handed another crippling challenge that threatens everything in her almost perfect life. Only, this time, she doesn’t turn to Heath, hiding the truth instead. But Heath knows Ace too well and won’t back down easily. He’s ready to do whatever it takes and will stay by her side until she accepts that their love is the kinda love worth fighting for.

Will he be her forever triumph or her unexpected downfall?

Two lives.

One story.

And an unexpected journey to falling in love.

Forever Kinda Love is a special breed of romance. Romance authors (and probably some readers) refer to it as a “best friends to lovers” story. Having married my best friend, I can attest to the fact that this type of love resonates deeply. Who wouldn’t want to end up with someone they can call their best friend? It brings a sweet innocence to the relationship, a bond that’s as solid as steel. And Clara Stone has captured it perfectly.

Carrigan (Ace, as she’s called throughout most of the book) first meets Heath when she’s seven. Huddled in a hospital waiting area, the last thing she expects to find is a friendship that will last. But that’s exactly what happens. Flash forward ten years and Heath and Ace are seniors in high school on the cusp of graduation, and they’re inseparable.  But they’re best friends, and nothing more. Heath has kept his silent promise to watch over the little girl who lost her mom, keeping her carefully shielded from his player status and parade of non-relationships.

When Ace meets the mysterious Vincent, though, Heath starts to realize that his feelings for her go far beyond his promise to protect her. He’s jealous. And he doesn’t like it.

But what he doesn’t know is that Ace feels the same way. She secretly wishes for more with Heath, but can’t fathom the idea that he’d view her that way. It’s not until an unexpected illness threatens to break the two apart that they both discover the courage to speak up.

Told in a split POV, Forever Kinda Love is an emotional roller-coaster, full of “will they/won’t they” moments and heart-wrenching beauty. Stone brilliantly weaves an authentic, teenage voice throughout, and every single moment–from the fast, head-first rush of young love to the battles with insecurities we’ve all felt–rings true. The voyeuristic way readers are allowed to see things the characters haven’t grasped yet creates a dynamic pull that will hook you and keep you reading to the end. We know they belong together, and we know how they both feel, but the back-and-forth dance as the characters discover those truths is simultaneously frustrating and completely honest.

I read this in draft form, and I can honestly say that even in its roughest phase, Ms. Stone was able to bring me to tears several times. This is easily the most powerful romance I’ve read in a long time and I highly recommend it. In fact, it’s even on sale right now, so you really have no excuse for not buying it immediately! (It’ll be $.99 through the end of the weekend.)

And, in case you’ve already read it and are looking for more from Clara Stone, you might want to check out her other book, Dracian Legacy, published earlier this year (some of you may remember it being featured here) and it’s upcoming sequel, Dracian Origins. Both are paranormal romance, rather than contemporary, but Clara/Priya’s signature mix of romance, best friends, and feisty leading ladies is just as present. At the very least, they’ll tide you over until her next “secret project” is announced. 😉

To connect with Priya and learn more about all her writings, be sure to check out her website, her FB page, and of course, her Twitter profile. And remember, Forever Kinda Love is only on sale for $.99 until Sunday, 8/17. Don’t miss out!

**Content Note: This is classed as a YA, but parents should be aware that the content, in my opinion, is appropriate for 17+ years.  It contains heavy swearing and steamy make-out sessions that will leave adults looking for a cold shower.**

From the Editor’s Desk: The Rose Master by Valentina Cano

I wasn’t going to post this one yet, but I’m just too darn excited about it to hold back. This is the last one for a while though, so next week will return to my snarky, information-filled posts. (Was that a sigh of relief I heard just now?) But first, the blurb, for those who are uninitiated into this series of posts:

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 the latest release from REUTS Publications (and I do mean latest — it just dropped on Tues):

The Rose Master

by Valentina Cano

 

The Rose Master by Valentina Cano

 

 

The day Anne Tinning turns seventeen, birds fall from the sky. But that’s hardly the most upsetting news. She’s being dismissed from the home she’s served at since she was a child, and shipped off to become the newly hired parlor maid for a place she’s never heard of. And when she sees the run-down, isolated house, she instantly knows why:

There’s something wrong with Rosewood Manor.

Staffed with only three other servants, all gripped by icy silence and inexplicable bruises, and inhabited by a young master who is as cold as the place itself, the house is shrouded in neglect and thick with fear. Her questions are met with hushed whispers, and she soon finds herself alone in the empty halls, left to tidy and clean rooms no one visits.

As the feeling of being watched grows, she begins to realize there is something else in the house with them–some creature that stalks the frozen halls and claws at her door. A creature that seems intent on harming her.

When a fire leaves Anne trapped in the manor with its Master, she finally demands to know why. But as she forces the truth about what haunts the grounds from Lord Grey, she learns secrets she isn’t prepared for. The creature is very real, and she’s the only one who can help him stop it.

Now, Anne must either risk her life for the young man she’s grown to admire, or abandon her post while she still can.

Where do I start? This book is amazing! A blend of Gothic literature and fairy tale with a splash of horror, it can best be described as Beauty and the Beast meets Jane Eyre. And since those are two of my all-time most beloved stories, it’s no surprise that I fell hard for this one.

The Rose Master starts with Anne, a parlor maid in a prominent London estate, being surrounded by falling birds. But that’s only the beginning of the strange events that mark her seventeenth birthday. She’s soon summoned by Lady Caldwell and informed that she’s being shipped off to one of Lady Caldwell’s distant relations in the middle of nowhere. Dismissed from the home she’s grown up in and torn away from the servants she views as family, Anne has no choice but to embark on the journey to Rosewood Manor.

She can tell instantly that there’s something wrong with the place. Silence cloaks its run-down exterior, and a profusion of roses covers everything, stifling the winter air with their pungent scent. The staff is small — only three others — and covered in suspicious bruises and scratches, the manor is colder inside than the frigid air without, and the Lord of the manor is nowhere to be seen. Confused, Anne tries to settle into the house’s routine, which can only be described as unconventional. She knows there’s something her fellow servants aren’t telling her, but she has no idea what.

When strange noises start following her around and eerie scratching haunts her door at night, she begins to realize that the manor is haunted. But it’s not until she finally meets Lord Grey and demands answers that she learns the truth — she’s the only one who can help save the manor from the creature roaming its halls.

The description sounds fairly benign, but don’t let that fool you. The Rose Master is definitely a horror; it will leave you creeped out and questioning what the heck is going on as surely as Anne herself does. Written in a style reminiscent of the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen, it’s lyrical prose is well-crafted, with some of the most beautiful analogies I’ve ever come across. A modern fairy tale, set against a Victorian backdrop, it’s sure to become a classic and would be perfect for adaptation to the silver screen (Disney, if you’re out there, this one has you written all over it!). Whether you’re a fan of the romantic, Gothic stylings of the Bronte sisters, or are simply looking for a creepy take on the fairy tale genre, I can’t recommend this one enough.

It’s currently available in eBook form via Amazon (with additional retailers coming soon), and will be in paperback on 7/8/14.  To find out more about The Rose Master, be sure to check out Valentina’s official website or the REUTS Publications page.

Happy reading! 🙂

From the Editor’s Desk: Flux by Ellie Carstens

Another one?

I know, I know. You’d think this was turning into a bona fide review blog or something. (It’s not, don’t worry. These two just happened to release almost simultaneously. 😉 )

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the blurb about what these posts are about: (everyone else, feel free to skip it!)

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 the latest release from REUTS Publications:

Flux

By Ellie Carstens

Flux by Ellie Carstens

The last thing sixteen-year-old Alaina Oftedahl-Miller expected was to watch her mom brutally destroy their life.

But, in the wake of tragedy, strength forms. Shipped off to live with her birth father, Alaina finds herself dealing with more than just being the new Canadian girl in a Norwegian school. Juggling the formation of a relationship with the man who abandoned her as a child, and a budding attraction to Kaius Vargøy — the mysterious, beautiful classmate who’s been assigned as her personal translator — Alaina can’t shake the feeling that every move she makes is being watched. Judged.

She soon learns there’s far more to this sleepy Norwegian town than she ever imagined. Kaius and his friends aren’t exactly what they seem, and the repercussions of that could send her traveling through the most unexpected experience of her life. Murder and relocation is one thing, but add in supernatural occurrences and Vikings, and even she may not have the strength to survive.

Okay, so before I jump into my review of Flux, can we just take a moment to admire that cover? Creative Director Ashely Ruggirello really outdid herself on this one. She’s a brilliant designer, and in case any of you are interested in acquiring some of her brilliance for yourself, she freelances. (Her website is here.)

All right, back to business. Flux is an intriguing title, blending historical fiction with paranormal romance in a way I really hadn’t ever seen before. It starts, quite literally, with a bang as fifteen-year-old Alaina witnesses the brutal murder of her step-father at the hands of her deranged mother. This event becomes the catalyst for her journey to Norway nine months later, where she’s reunited with the birth father she thought had abandoned her. What seems like a simple story of tragedy and healing soon takes an interesting twist though — otherwise known as Kaius Vargøy, the next-door neighbor who also happens to have been assigned as her translator at school.

It’s immediately apparent that Kaius and his friends are not entirely what they seem, and while there are shades of Twilight echoing through that mystery, the reality couldn’t be further from that. I won’t give away the twist, but suffice it to say, it’s not one you will be expecting. Once the truth is revealed, the story takes yet another unexpected turn, catapulting Alaina and friends back in time to 12th century Norway. Surrounded by Vikings, strange customs, and a looming war with an evil she knew nothing about, Alaina’s strength is put to the test.

But despite the fantastical elements, this is, at its heart, a very human story. Fraught with emotional struggles and very real choices, Flux is about the strength of the human spirit, overcoming demons, and ultimately, the importance of love and acceptance. Steeped in Norwegian culture, Carstens has provided a refreshing voice in a genre that is bordering on stale. It is the first in a trilogy, but doesn’t leave you with an intense cliff-hanger. For that, I’m thankful, but I’m also definitely looking forward to the next installment.

If you’d like to find out more about Flux or Ellie, be sure to check out the REUTS Publications official website. And if you just want to buy it, it can be found in both print and eBook at the usual online retailers. Happy reading! 🙂