Book Review: The Toll by Neal Shusterman

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About the book

The Toll blurb

My thoughts

This was an incredible read. I’d no idea what to expect but it was better than anything I could imagine. It is violent and bloody, but the story explores our morals.

Set in the future, death is no longer a problem. If you were to become deadish, you can be revived. To restore the balance a group called Scythes take on the sacred duty of gleaming (killing) life. They have quotas and rules to follow.

Teenagers Roman and Citra both (on seperate occasions) meet Scythe Faraday on a gleaming job. Their interactions with him stand out and he makes them his apprentice. Never before has a Scythe taken on two apprentices and there’s no rule against it. Still, it causes uproar and an edict is agreed that when one of them passes their apprenticeship, their first task will be to kill the other.

Scythe Faraday blames himself for putting Citra & Rowan in this position. He gleams himself to free them from the apprenticeship, but instead two other Scythes step forward to train them.

Rowan is taken on by Scythe Goddard who has a reputation for his blood lust, enjoying massacres to hit his quotas.

Citra is taken on by the famous Grande Madam of Death, Scythe Curie. She shows compassion to the family members of those gleamed.

Now the pair have very different apprenticeship experiences. Citra doesn’t believe Scythe Faraday’s death was an accident, and her inquisitive mind gets her in trouble.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s training involves parties and mass killings as Scythe Goddard tries to encourage him to find joy in kill craft. Goddard’s cruel methods push Rowan too far and he is no longer the boy he started out as.

The story continues to move toward the final conclave where they’ll both have to pass their last test. Passing the test will means one of them gets ordained and must kill the other. Despite all that has happened since Faraday, they still care deeply about each other. Both are plotting for a loop hole in the edict.

This was a brilliant story. There is a lot of death as they are Scythes, but the twists and surprises in the story is what makes you gasp and need to read another chapter!

Read it for a story full of twists and surprises, and to explore ideas of mortality and morals. Don’t read it if you don’t like blood, gore, or sensitive about death.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

You can buy this book from:

Amazon: The Toll (Arc of a Scythe) https://amzn.eu/d/eMwAIU2

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[Kofi]

This weekend is Herts Book Festival!

A lot goes into attending an event, and as this is my first appearance at a book festival, it was a little more work.

The HERTS BOOK FESTIVAL will be at Herts Castle. You can find me at my author stall from 10am to 3pm, although I will be popping off to be on the Fantasy Panel to chat about the baddies between 2pm and 2:50pm.

I have written a post on Ko-Fi covering some of the things I’ve done to prepare for the event. It’s worth a read if you are an author going to an event, or just interested in knowing more. https://ko-fi.com/post/This-weekend-is-Herts-Book-Fest-N4N5L40D9

Something I didn’t mention in the post was that I wanted to do book reviews on YouTube of some of the authors I know will be attending. This proved more challenging than I expected because I didn’t get much time in April to record anything!

Here are the book reviews for my author friends that I’m excited to be meeting up with this weekend at Herts Book Festival.

Roxy Eloise

If it wasn’t for Roxy, I probably wouldn’t be doing this event. I met her via Instagram when she was launching her debut novel Discovering Puracordis, the first book the The Guidal series.

She’s become a good friend ever since, and inspired me to get in-front of the camera and try YouTube again.

Here’s my review of her debut novel, and I recently finished book two Unearthing Secrets, so I need to find time to record a book tube of that.

April Grace

I originally met April on Wattpad, and posted on Instagram that I was going to YALC. She was going to so we met up. She encouraged me to query agents, and supported me when I decided to self publish.

April also is a BookTuber and encouraged me to try again. She’s been in my corner for a while now. I’m looking forward to her upcoming releases and sharing a stand with her at Herts Book Festival.

J D Groom

I love Jodie’s writing. I met her via Wattpad and my early days on Instagram. She got me involved in World Indie Warriors. Networking with indies opened my eyes to the possibilities of self publishing.

Jodie had shared her self publishing journey on Instagram and her website. I learnt a lot from her, and highly value her advice. As a result, we have used the same editor, Formatter, and cover designer. Without Jodie, I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to say yes to myself, and self publish.

Jodie currently has a free prequel available on her website for news letter subscribers. I wanted to do a BookTube review of this but didn’t have time. However, Jodie’s debut novel Sorceress of Truth was one of my first YouTube video reviews, and she participated in my YouTube livestream launch party when my debut novel launched during lockdown.

Cassidy Reyne

I met Cassidy through World Indie Warriors. She has the biggest heart, and makes everyone feel included and valued. She has shared a lot with me about her self publishing that has helped shape my journey.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jodie and Cassidy at the Milton Keynes book festival where we had a tour of the Ingram Sparks book printing factory. Cassidy was actively involved in helping me promote my debut novel, doing a proof read, writing a review, and taking part in live streams.

I ARC read her book AGENT:Undone but this is just one of the many books she has released.

Come join us

Come join us at Herts Book Festival. I’m looking forward to making more author friends and meeting lots of readers.

I will be signing copies of Ocean Heart, and I will have a leaflet with details on how to join my Sky Heart ARC.

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[kofi]

Reading Challenge: Brave New Girl by Grace Herbst

About the challenge

The challenge was set by World Indie Warriors on Instagram. They created three #WIWBingo boards; YA, Romance, and Fantasy.

The aim is to read and review the books on Instagram and tag @worldindiewarriors

The goal is to get three in a line, and help indie books get seen.

I’m doing the challenge. I’ve already read some of the books on the board so I’ll be reposting them this month, and I’m hoping to read some new one too.

The Book Review

Here is my post of my old review for Brave New Girl by Grace Herbst. I shortened it for social media.

If you enjoyed this you will like:

Full original review of Brave New Girl by Grace Herbst

Summer Reading Challenge

Romance Tropes – Which are your favourite?

Going Live for Indie Author Week

[kofi]

Below are some affiliate links. Visit my Affiliate Disclosure page to learn more.

Reading Challenge: Agent Undone by Cassidy Reyne

About the challenge

The challenge was set by World Indie Warriors on Instagram. They created three #WIWBingo boards; YA, Romance, and Fantasy.

The aim is to read and review the books on Instagram and tag @worldindiewarriors

The goal is to get three in a line, and help indie books get seen.

I’m doing the challenge. I’ve already read some of the books on the board so I’ll be reposting them this month, and I’m hoping to read some new one too.

The Book Review

Here is my post of my old review for Agent Undone by Cassidy Reyne. I shortened it for social media.

If you enjoyed this you will like:

Full original review of Agent Undone by Cassidy Reyne

Why I love World Indie Warriors

Behind the Book: Agent Undone by Cassidy Reyne

Behind the Book: The Sentinels by Cassidy Reyne

[kofi]

Below are some affiliate links. Visit my affiliate disclosure page if you’d like to learn more.

It’s Indie Author Week UK

I’m really excited to be involved in this event, especially as so many incredible indie authors are taking part. This year, I’m one of those authors.

What am I doing?

I am streaming live to my YouTube channel. Join me on Tues, 15 June at 8pm (GMT+1), where I will be joined by these awesome Indie Authors to chat about why we love being Indie.

The line up includes:

💛 Romantic Suspense author Cassidy Reyne: https://www.cassidyreyne.com/

💛 Worldbuilding & World Destroying author Angeline Trevena: https://angelinetrevena.co.uk/

💛 Contemporary Fantasy author J D Groom (Jodie): https://jodiegroom.wordpress.com/

💛 And, of course myself, Ally Aldridge: http://allyaldridge.com/

It’s live, so you can join in by asking questions or sharing your thoughts. We can’t wait to see you there.

How to make sure you don’t miss out!

Here’s the link. Make sure you hit that notification bell so you know when we go live: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TG1203XOADs

You may also want to add the FB event to your calendar so your don’t forget: fb://event/?id=1401390906894506

Indie Author Week UK

To find out more about Indie Author Week UK, please visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IndieAuthorWeekUK/

They have a ton of incredible events going on. If you can’t make a live, look out for the replay.

[kofi]

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Goodreads 2020 Reads

Something I love about Goodreads is how easy it is to track my progress towards my reading goals. At the end of the year, Goodreads gives stats on my reads.

Redfae Bookshop is my Affiliate Bookshop.org shop link. NB: This post contains these affiliate links.

2020 Reading Goals

My goal was set at 12 books, thinking I could easily read one a month but I hadn’t taken into account how busy I’d be certain months launching my own book, Ocean Heart. It turned out just 12 books was harder than I thought.

The year has include some books I absolutely loved, and one I hated. I’m pretty good at choosing books I know I will love that I wasn’t surprised that my average rating was high. I just don’t have time to read books I won’t like. 😂

Wiccan Romances: Amelia’s Story by Nicola Hebron

This was my first read of 2020. It was a book I’d been eager to buy, but was lucky enough to win a copy from the author on Twitter! Whoop! Whoop! I love fantasy set in the real world so it was a good start to my year.

My last two reads of 2020 were Garden in the Sands by Ellie Mitten and… I rather unusual choice for me… The Substantial Meal by Florence Green. I’ve rated them both on Goodreads but still need to write the review.

Garden in the Sands by Ellie Mitten

I think I preordered this book, but I’m such a slow reader, by the time I got to it, it’d been out a little while. I’m going to write a review very soon but as you can see from my 5 star rating, I LOVED THIS BOOK!

The Substantial Sandwich by Florence Green

I can’t remember how Florence & I got talking, but I was a bit glum I wasn’t going to make my pathetic reading goal of just 12 books. I was beating myself up. Then Florence cheered my up by sending me his recent release, an erotic satire using innuendos and puns about the Covid restrictions. It was a quick short read and succeeded at cheering me up. Review coming soon.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas is the most popular book I read. I’m not surprised as I saw it all over Instagram. I actually bought my copy in summer 2019 at YALC.

Another YALC buy was Sea Witch by Sarah Henning. It’s a historical fantasy/fairytale retelling of The Little Mermaid. I really loved the book, and hope to read book 2 in the series this year.

A book that should be more popular is Sorceress of Truth by J D Groom. It’s contemporary fantasy and has everything I love in a book. The MC was relatable, but all the side characters were well developed. With a modern day sorceress, fairies and vampires, what’s not to love?

2021 Reading Goal

To alleviate pressure, I’ve lowered my reading goal to 10 fiction books. I know, some people can read that amount in a month. But, I read for pleasure. And, I have to be in the right mood. If I’m too tired or engrossed in my own writing, I just can’t get into the book.

I also have a few resource books I need to read and review. I didn’t review any last year despite reading some. So, you can look forward to that. These are separate from my reading goal.

[kofi]

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2020 Book Reviews

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Book Review: Agent Undone

8 Reasons Why You Should Write Reviews For You

Book Review: Agent Undone by Cassidy Reyne

I love Cassidy. She has a big heart and its no surprise she writes romance. If you don’t follow her on social media you’re missing out.

Cassidy always says the perfect thing when someone needs picking up. She helped with my blurb and novel. I’ve never read romantic suspense before, but for her I wanted to.

If you don’t like spoilers, scroll quickly to my final thoughts.

About the Book

Beginning

Carter is an agent that got injured during the last mission. He’s now renting a cabin by the coast whilst recovering. In addition, he is hear broken over a colleague/lover that died. He has a lot of emotional stuff to process and doesn’t want a relationship. While he rests up, his best mate/colleague, Nate, let’s him stay at his beach holiday home.

Maddison writes articles about women in abusive relationships. It’s a topic very personal to her as she barely escaped her ex, Konrad, alive. Now she lives in fear he may one day find her. Maddie is renting the cabin next door to Nate’s, where Carter is staying.

Middle

Both characters are private people. Carter needs to maintain secrecy about who he is and what he does, and Maddison is constantly checking over her shoulder for her ex or one of his goons.

They enjoy running up and down the beach, and soon start doing this together. Carter is attracted to Maddie but doesn’t want to get involved woth anyone. He tries to manage his sexual urges with a few one night stands, careful to pick girls that won’t get close. The more time he spends with Maddison, the less effective his cold showers become.

Maddison has to visit her employers head office to collect her pay checks. Little does she know, but during this trip she is spotted by a goon. And despite her careful precautions, she’s now being followed back to the beach hut.

Carter’s leg has healed and he’s approved to return to duty. He’s to be an undercover agent to catch a sex and drug trafficking ring. Carter feels bad that he couldn’t say bye to Maddie and asks Nate to check on her.

Nate reports that Maddie has gone, and Carter accepts he is unlikely to ever see her again.

Carter is making progress fooling Konrad, the suspected boss of the ring he is investigating. Carter doesn’t know what to think when Konrad parades his girlfriend around his sleazy club, and Carter recognises her as Maddie.

End

There are lots of misunderstandings between the pair. Carter assumes that Maddie was helping Konrad get girls and after the bust, he wants nothing to do with her.

Fate causes the pair to cross paths again, it’s messy and they’ve a lot of baggage to unpack. But, there isa HEA and a very steamy sex scene .

Final Thoughts

This was a great read. It has some very steamy scenes but brought together with a strong plot. The characters are very complex, with rich back stories that feeds into who they are.

It’s only in recent years I’ve become aware of that domestic trafficking takes place. Cassidy sensitively deals with this topic. She shows how it has shapes Maddie and affected her life. The early chapters made me feel uneasy every time Maddie left the safety of her cabin. Carter also has complex issues to resolve. Their hesitation to get involved in a romantic relationship is very real.

There where times I wanted to knock Carter’s head but I think he was scared of the truth, as he was scared of getting close and losing someone again. I read the las chapters really fast as I loved when he starts to get over his fear and get honest with himself. He needs the truth, and he needs Maddie. Such a satisfying ending.

I’ve not read romantic suspense before. The suspense made me feel on edge and anxious. It was refreshing to try something different. I loved how developed the characters were, and obviously the way the steamy scenes made me feel.

[kofi]

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Behind the Book: Agent: Undone by Cassidy Reyne

Behind the Book: The Sentinels series by Cassidy Reyne

The Making Of The Blurb for Ocean Heart

Book Review: Out Of My League by Sarah Sutton

Behind the Book: Agent: Undone by Cassidy Reyne

What genre is Agent Undone and can you name any similar books?

Agent: Undone is a dark romance/romantic suspense novel with very adult themes. Books similar to this one would be the McIntyre Security Bodyguard Series by April Wilson, The Salvation Series by Corinne Michaels and The Broken Trilogy by J. L. Drake. They all have protective, slightly growly men and strong, independent women as their main characters.

The novel has two main characters, Carter & Maddison. Can you briefly introduce them?

Carter Hollis is a DEA Agent who has been forced to take medical leave after being shot in the leg during a mission. After his girlfriend and colleague died in his arms during an op, he couldn’t face being in a relationship again, so he became a ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em’ kind of guy. He’s always upfront about his intentions with every woman he meets and tries to not leave a string of broken hearts in his wake. He needs to focus on his work and doesn’t need a woman in his life for anything more than a bit of fun between the sheets whenever he’s off duty.


Madison Wells is living a quiet life in Florida, working from her little rented beach cottage and not allowing anyone close enough to see the deep cracks in her soul. She carries her secrets underneath a new identity and hides her fears of her past catching up with her behind an enigmatic smile and a well constructed armour. She doesn’t have friends, only people she says hello to in the tiny village nearby. Her days are spent on early morning runs on the beach, working on her writing and jumping at shadows.

Maddison has an ex from hell that she’s lucky to be free from. Not many people talk about trafficking and domestic abuse. Was it challenging writing about a such a difficult topic?

Trafficking and abuse are some of the worst crimes in our society, and they need to be brought out and examined in the cold light of day. In so many abusive situations, the victim is made to feel they are to blame for what is happening to them. They are stripped of their confidence, isolated from any outside support and made to depend on their abuser for everything. It’s incredibly hard for them to break free and escape their situation, and once they do the support available is often short term and run on shoestring budgets. I did a lot of research into domestic abuse and I was horrified when reading the women’s (and a couple of men) stories as they described their journey from being outgoing, confident, and in love, to an unrecognisable shell of their former selves. It’s a long, slow transformation that happens so gradually they don’t realise it before it’s too late. As much as I wanted to bring the subject into the book, I was also very wary of either trivialising or sensationalising it as it would be insulting to anyone who has ever suffered from abuse. The sex trafficking part was also emotionally hard to research and very complex, which is why I didn’t go into too many details and kept it to a more general description. We all know it happens and we all want it to stop, but as long as there are people who think others are there to be used as a commodity, and people who want to buy that commodity, it will always be an incredibly difficult trade to put a stop to. My heart breaks for anyone who has been put through it and for the families who lose a loved one in such a way. Many victims are never found which leaves parents, siblings and friends without closure and always wondering if they are still out there somewhere.

Carter has lost Mira and now uses women for a good time rather than to develop a meaningful connection. How did you rap into those complex emotions when developing his character?

Carter was both fun and interesting to create. I tried to visualise how a person would react if they didn’t deal with their grief properly after losing someone the way Carter lost Mira, and instead protected themselves from the risk of having to go through it again by pretending they didn’t want or need a deeper connection with a partner. I think we would all want to shield ourselves from heartache if the one we loved passed away. Some of us would go through all the classical stages of grief and eventually come out the other side, battered and bruised, but still open to finding someone new if the opportunity arose. Others would finish the grieving process but not feel the need for that kind of relationship again, and some would yearn for the love but be too afraid to have their heart broken again. The process of grief and loss is very individual and everyone tries to cope the best way they know how. Carter wants to fall in love and have that special someone in his life, but has convinced himself he’s not capable of it and only needs sexual gratification whenever his body demands it. I wanted him to come across as the stereotypical male who only wants one thing from women, while at the same time give glimpses into the fear and longing inside his heart. I promise, he’s not as bad as you might think when you first meet him.

You seem to have a style of writing novels with a dual perspective, one male, one female? Can we look forward to more of this?

I like writing from a dual perspective as I feel the reader gets a more three-dimensional insight into the characters. It allows me to develop the story from different levels and emotional angles, and the reader gets to know things about the characters they don’t know yet themselves. It lets the reader in on the secrets and builds a connection between them and the characters. It’s something I personally enjoy in the books I read and it’s a little like getting two stories woven into one whole.

The setting sounds beautiful. Have you been there or did you do a lot of research?

The story is set in the Florida panhandle and in Seattle, but I haven’t been to either of them so a lot of research was necessary. I’m on very friendly terms with Google Earth, Maps and Streetview. They are an absolute godsend for seeing how places look from lots of different angles. It’s also great fun to find new and interesting places to learn about and try to visualise as if you’ve actually been there. Quite often, I draw from memories of my own travels to try to create a picture of the sights, sounds and smells of the place I want to describe. After all, a sunny beach in Australia or Mexico is not going to be too different from one in Florida. Seattle was slightly more difficult, but as I didn’t need the characters to move around much, it wasn’t too hard to just get a feel for the city using the internet. The weather is also not too dissimilar to that here in the UK or even in Sweden where I grew up, so adding a lot of rain and grey skies was easy.

Please share a short snippet or teaser from Agent Undone?

“Before I forget, I might not make it for our run tomorrow morning.” Carter said with an embarrassed wince.
“Oh?” The tiny sound popped free from her mouth. “Are you going somewhere?”
“No, I’m not. My friend, Nathan, the guy who owns the beach house, is coming down today, and we’re going for a couple of drinks tonight at the bar.”
“And you might be too hungover tomorrow to go running? I get it. I suppose there might be a girl or two involved in that scenario as well?” Madison teased him, but he noticed a strained undertone in her words. It warmed his belly and made his chest feel light.
“Nope, no girls. Not for me, anyway. As soon as my leg has healed up, I’ll be on my way back to Virginia and my job. I don’t want to get tangled up with a woman that I must extricate myself from. Too many complications.” Damn, he was so lying to her — and himself. He just didn’t want her to think he was hooking up with other women while he was seeing her. Wait. Hold up. He was not seeing Madison. They were running buddies. Friends. Acquaintances. That’s all.
Carter tried to silence the annoying little voice in his head that was whispering the word liar very loudly.
“Well, if you need a hangover cure in the morning, give me a call and I’ll whip one up for you. I’ll even make one for your friend.” She snickered.
“If you have a hangover cure that actually works, Nate will worship you forever. He will also badger you for the recipe until you relent and give him what he wants. He’ll probably offer marriage and babies in return. You’ve been warned.” A deep laugh rumbled in Carter’s chest.
“No way, I’m not giving anyone that recipe, and for your information it does work. Or, at least it did on—“ Madison stopped abruptly and her lips pressed into a thin line. Carter knew that look.

Where can we find out more and buy your books?

There’s more information on Agent: Undone, including a video trailer made by the amazing J. D. Groom, and my other two books, on my website: cassidyreyne.comYou can purchase the books from Amazon and they are also available in Kindle Unlimited.

[kofi]

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Behind the Book – The Sentinels Series by Cassidy Reyne

If you are an Indie, you need to know this…

Behind the Book: The Sentinels (series) by Cassidy Reyne

The first two books of Cassidy’s Romantic Suspense series is out with more coming. Here she shares her inspiration, process and snippets.

What inspired you to write The Sentinels Series?

Over 10 years ago, I woke up one morning from a dream and immediately thought it would be exactly the kind of story I would like to read. I didn’t remember more than a few snippets from that dream, but in my head I started to create the story in my head. I worked out who all the characters were, how they acted, and what they looked like. Then, I figured out what their likes and dislikes were and what made them who they are as individuals. Eventually, I had the whole story written in my head from start to finish, but that’s where it stayed until I decided to stop being scared and just throw it out there.

How long did it take to write and publish from the first idea?

The actual writing didn’t take me that long as I had everything already worked out and I also type quite fast. I think I had it all down on the screen in around 6 weeks. Then I spent another 6 weeks or so re-writing, editing, fixing continuity mistakes and filling potholes. From opening a new document on my computer to pressing the publishing button too about 3 months in total. I probably should have taken more time with it, but I knew that if I didn’t get it out of my hands and into the world, I would never actually put it out there. It was a do or die kind of thing.

Did you know it would be a duology from the start?

I don’t think I ever thought beyond the first book until it was published and I’d had some time to process. Then I got this feeling that the main characters’ story wasn’t quite finished. There were events in their pasts that needed to be brought their full conclusion. So, I started to work on book 2 and it didn’t take long for some of the other characters to start telling me they wanted their stories to be heard as well.

Consequently, I now have a complete first draft of book 3 and I’m also plotting book 4. Will there be a fifth? Well, a voice in my head keeps telling me so, but for the time being I’ve told him to shut up.

Why did you choose a pen name when you published?

I’m a fairly private person and don’t like everyone knowing every aspect of my life, so to protect my privacy I chose to use a pen name. That way I can accept friend requests from readers on Facebook and know that real my life, and the lives of my family and friends, won’t be displayed to complete strangers.

What genre is The Sentinels and can you name any similar books?

The Sentinels Series comes under romantic suspense, although it has a tiny bit of paranormal thrown into the first two books. It is similar to Rescued by Stephanie St. Klaire and the styles of Lucy Score and Ivy Smoak.

Which character is most like you and why?

There’s a little of me in all my female characters but I would say Anya is probably the one who is most like me. She loves with abandon, is loyal to a fault, but won’t allow anyone to tell her how she should behave and soon gets up if she’s been kicked to the floor. She’s independent, stubborn and finds something good in everyone she meets. Except her worst enemy.

Tell me about a typical day in the life of author Cassidy Reyne?

Hmmmm, a typical day. Well, I’m usually up and having my morning coffee around 8.30 in the morning and sitting with my laptop looking through whatever I was working on the night before. I’ll also scroll through social media, reply to emails, and say good morning to my writer friends who are doing almost the exact same thing as I am. After the usual household chores are out of the way, I usually have a few things to do for our main business, but before lunch I want to be sitting at my desk getting stuck into whatever I’m working on. I’ll take a break for lunch with my husband before going back to work till around 4 in the afternoon. By that time, I’ll be needing a longer break so I’ll get on with other things till after dinner when I’ll go back to my writing for a while. I’m not quite so focused during the evening and often fit in other things like social media and chatting with friends. I might even watch some tv if I feel I need a distraction. Since I work from home I have the luxury of going to bed when I want to so you can often find me still at my desk around 1 am.

During the week I also fit in a yoga and pilates session and a non-syllabus ballet class, as well as a few walks around the neighborhood for some fresh air.

Please share a snippet or a teaser from the book?

The Sentinels 1 — Saving Her

The helicopter rose up from its platform by the East River dock and started a sweep out over the water. It circled the whole of Manhattan and they could see all the big sights and buildings. The view from the air put a whole different perspective on the city. It was a warm day for being in early March and the first signs of spring could be seen even from this height. When the chopper veered away from the center and left the city behind, Anya turned to Nikolas looking puzzled.

“I’m taking you for lunch at this little place I know in Montauk, you’ll love it. It’s right by the beach and as it’s out of season there shouldn’t be many people around.” He explained with a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Anya grinned at him in delight and turned to gaze out through the window again as Long Island stretched out beneath their feet.

“Oh Nikolas, this place is beautiful. Have you spent a lot of time here?” Anya drew a soft sigh of pleasure at the sight of the little New England style restaurant overlooking a wide, deserted beach. The sun glittered on the blue water and seagulls soared on the air currents overhead. It was a beautiful spot that he always enjoyed coming back to. He explained that it belonged to some close friends of his but he hadn’t been there for a couple of years or so.

As they walked in, Anya gasped in surprise. The restaurant was all lit up with soft lights and music playing in the background. One table by the windows facing the ocean was set for two with white linen, flowers and a flickering candle. Outside, the sun was setting on the horizon and painted the whole sky in red and gold.

Anya had a wonderful time with Nikolas, having dinner at the gorgeous little restaurant with his friend’s parents serving up the most delicious food. They had lobster and crab for entrées, a wonderful home cooked stew as their main course and a mouthwatering chocolate and raspberry cake to finish off. Anya didn’t think the helicopter would be able to take off with all the extra weight they must have just put on. Nikolas laughed and agreed with her. He felt so full he didn’t think he could walk but it was all worth it seeing the look on her face.

Anya decided this was the birthday she had ever had. God knew she hadn’t had much reason to celebrate anything in the last few years. It was a relief to finally feel that life could be good and there was every reason to be hopeful for the future. As she looked across the table at Nikolas’ face, which was lit up by the soft light from the candle, she was amazed at how fate intervened sometimes. Even if nothing ever came from this she would always be grateful to Nikolas for helping her see that this was the beginning of her new life. She just hoped he would be a part of it for a long time. When he placed his hand over hers on the table a warm tingle spread up her arm and into her chest and the butterflies in her stomach took flight.

“I have something for you.” He said softly and brought out a small box prettily wrapped with a bow on top.

“Please, Nikolas, you’ve already given me too much. I can’t accept this.” Anya pleaded with him.

“It’s only something small to remember this day by. Open it, please, I can’t take it back now.” Anya carefully opened the present and under white tissue paper nestled a silver case with an engraved leafy vine trailing around the outside edge. Nikolas explained he thought she could put her new business cards in it for when she had decided what she wanted to do after selling her current company. Anya gently opened the case and drew in a soft breath when she saw the inscription on the inside of the lid. It read ‘Et hoc est solum initium est’ in italic script.

“It’s Latin and means ‘This is only the beginning’.” Nikolas said. His voice was soft and warm and made Anya smile. He was right. This was just the beginning of the rest of her life.

“Thank you so much, it’s the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever been given. I just don’t understand how you had time to organize all this, and why you would go to so much trouble for someone you hardly know.”

Because I want this to be the beginning of the rest of your life — with me.The thought of wanting her always in his life no longer surprised Nikolas, he just wasn’t sure how she felt yet and didn’t quite know how to take the next step, but he was confident he’d be able to win her over.

The Sentinels 1 – Saving Her

The Sentinels 2 — Saving Him

She hadn’t slept all night, not that that was any different from all other nights these last three weeks. She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d had any kind of restful sleep; certainly not since she’d been told Nikolas wasn’t coming home again. Everyone kept saying he was dead but she knew better, didn’t she? Their bond was still there and she refused to believe she could still feel it just because she hadn’t accepted the truth, that she was clinging to false hope, an echo. But if he wasn’t dead then why hadn’t he come home? Gray and Logan had checked all the hospitals in a 30-mile radius but no one matching his description had been brought in. That meant he wasn’t lying injured and unconscious in a hospital bed somewhere. There were only a couple of other reasons for him staying away that Anya could think of. She tried very hard to keep those thoughts out of her head, but his behavior in the weeks leading up to the explosion made it almost impossible for her to do so. She slumped down on the unforgiving tiles, exhausted and covered in a cold sweat. She needed to start getting herself ready but she didn’t want to. She just wanted to hide in a dark room so she didn’t have to face what was coming; Nikolas’ Memorial. She had told Rick she didn’t want to go but he’d said Nikolas’ friends needed to say a last farewell to their friend. His parents, Connor and Elizabeth, needed some closure and to celebrate their only son’s life. And they all wanted Anya there, to be able to support her and show her how loved her husband had been. She already knew how loved and cherished he was and as he wasn’t dead there was no need for a Memorial! She felt like shouting out to the world that there was no need for any of this, he was alive! In the end, though, she’d agreed to attend just to get everyone off her back and, most of all, for Nikolas’ parents. She loved them dearly and didn’t want to make the situation any worse for them than it already was. They couldn’t feel the tether that was still connecting her and Nikolas and she couldn’t convince them it wasn’t just a whisper of what had once been the strongest bond two Sentinels could possibly share. Anya dragged herself off the floor and into the shower. She turned the water to scalding and stood under the streaming jets, hoping it would ease some of the tension in her tightly wound muscles. As she slowly lathered her skin she could feel the hard outlines of her ribs and hips, a sharpness that hadn’t been there a few weeks ago. Not eating or sleeping properly and running too many miles every day for several weeks would do that to a person. Her fingers lingered on her skin, remembering when it had been Nikolas’ hands on her body. She’d always felt so safe and protected in his hands. So loved. When the water started running cold Anya got out and slowly attempted to dry herself off. She wrapped a towel around her hair and pulled the bathrobe around her thin body. She wouldn’t be picked up for the service for a few hours yet but she still started to slowly get herself ready. She was hoping it would keep her mind occupied and away from the thoughts that were slowly eroding the tenuous hold she still had on her sanity. The heat from the hairdryer felt soothing on her scalp but she didn’t have the energy to try to style her hair the way she usually did. In any case, it had lost all its usual shine and bounce so all she could be bothered to do was to pull it into a severe bun at the nape of her neck. After trying, and failing miserably, to cover the shadows under her eyes with foundation, and adding some blusher to her pale cheeks she dressed in a black pencil skirt, cream blouse with a short fitted jacket, and the red-soled black stilettos that had been Nikolas’ favorites on her. Her motions were robotic and automatic. She couldn’t allow herself to think too much about what she was doing and why she was doing it or she’d flee the apartment and find an isolated corner of the world where no one could ever find her. After she’d finished getting ready she made her way downstairs and slumped down on the sofa in the living room. The Memorial still wasn’t for another few hours and Mac was picking her up in the car so she wouldn’t have to drive. Anya sat stiff with her back ramrod straight and her hands twisting and untwisting until the skin was red raw, staring out the large window in front of her. Her heart hammering in he chest and a terrifying speed. She didn’t want to do this, she couldn’t! How could anyone expect her to say goodbye to her husband, her best friend, the love of her life, her soulmate — when every fiber of her being told her he was still alive?

The Sentinels 2 – Saving Him

What project are you currently working on?

That should really be projects — plural, as I’m editing a standalone novel as well as first round edits of book 3 and I’m also plotting and planning book 4 in The Sentinels Series.

Where can we find out more and buy The Sentinels — Saving Her?

If you go to my website cassidyreyne.com, you will find all the information on both my books and links to where to buy them. They are both available from Amazon in paperback and ebook, and also free in Kindle Unlimited. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well.

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Check out World Indie Warriors for more amazing reads.