Editor’s Review: Foretold (Book 3 of the Near Deaths Series) by Holly M. Campbell

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*Full disclosure: I was the editor of this novel for 48fourteen Publishing.

Foretold (48fourteen, 2018) by Holly M. Campbell is the third – and final? – book in the Near Deaths Series. As a mega-fan of Mrs. Campbell’s previous works, including Foreshadowed (Book 1), Forewarned (Book 2), and Without Curtains, I was beyond honored to be approached by 48fourteen Publishing to edit her newest novel.

Foretold is every bit as compelling, gripping, and heart-stopping as its predecessors. The story of the teen mind-reader, Hope; her death-seeing boyfriend, Lance; and their quest to uncover the identity of a serial rapist/murderer in their small western town comes to its apex in this grand finale to complete the trilogy. Just like the first two books, the story is equal parts teen paranormal romance and murder mystery/suspense. Even the supernatural elements feel believable and realistic, keeping me on the edge of my seat as if it could all truly be happening.

The narrative takes a somewhat heavier turn as Hope grapples with guilt and grief after a sudden and devastating turn of events at the end of Book 2 (no spoilers! My lips – er, fingers – are sealed). Yet, the plot manages to stay fast-paced and unputdownable, aided along especially by intriguing characters from previous books who return with larger roles, the emergence of important new characters, and even one particular character turnaround that nearly stole the show for me. The banding together of the psychic Near Deaths vigilantes and Hope’s final battle against the villain in the third act of this book blew me away. Make no mistake, this is a masterful series executed by a master writer.

Punchy, suspenseful, heartfelt, dangerous, and at times humorous while deliciously dark, Foretold was the perfect ending to Campbell’s memorable and highly recommended paranormal suspense trilogy.

Book Review: Peony in Love by Lisa See

peonyThis has got to be one of the saddest books I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t put it down. In seventeenth century China, fifteen-year-old Peony is betrothed to someone she doesn’t know. One evening, Peony meets and falls in love with a man whom she calls “her poet,” for he loves poetry as much as she. But as she’s already betrothed, she becomes distraught and withdrawn, refusing to eat, and stays in bed all day to read a romantic opera, called The Peony Pavilion. Just like in her beloved opera, the lovesick maiden, Peony, wastes away, and starves herself to death. But in the moments leading up to her death, she learns that the man to whom she was betrothed was actually… her poet. This is just the beginning of the book Peony In Love, by Lisa See.

Peony continues to narrate the novel from the Chinese afterlife. Because her family forgets to perform a crucial burial task, she is sentenced to live as a Hungry Ghost, wandering the earth, condemned to watch as the husband with whom she’d have happily lived out her life now takes on new wives. While she cannot be seen or heard, Peony is able to set moods and intentions, to manipulate the thoughts and feelings of the living. In this way, she tries to communicate her continuing affections to her would-be husband, and also influences his next wives to be kind to him, and to finish her written commentary on her beloved Peony Pavilion opera, which she’d begun before her death.

As Peony’s story unfolds, her fate directly parallels the fate of the leading lady in The Peony Pavilion. Also relevant to this story is a famous, real-life commentary of the opera called The Three Wives’ Commentary (1694), written by the three consecutive wives of Wu Ren. It was the first published book of its kind to have been written by women. Peony In Love is author Lisa See’s imaginative retelling of how this commentary came to be written, having Peony dictating, as a ghost, the rest of her unfinished commentary to her husband’s two consecutive wives. This is overall a very sad story, although one could say it ends happily.

Author Spotlight: Mitch Albom

To start with Mitch Albom’s best, in my personal opinion, The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a lovely book. I count it among my favorites. It tells the story of Eddie, an old carnival ride operator, after he dies. The premise is that, in heaven, each of us meets the five people whose lives we most affected, or who most affected our lives, whether we knew it or not. I thought the message at the end of the story was beautiful, and I kept turning the pages in anticipation of discovering the next person Eddie would meet. A great novel.

Tuesdays With Morrie is more of a memoir. Morrie was an old, ailing professor with whom Albom had many philosophical conversations, and recorded in this book. Morrie’s philosophy was simple yet uplifting, and remarkable for a man in his circumstances.

For One More Day is the parable of Charley, a.k.a. “Chick.” Chick’s a baseball player who has royally screwed up his life and is on the verge of suicide. That’s when his loving, deceased mother reappears, and he gets to spend one more day with her. He realizes he’s being given final opportunity to appreciate her, and apologize for all the times he wronged her.

Book Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

lovelybonesIn the 1970s, Susie Salmon is a young teen who falls victim to her neighbor, a psychotic child predator. Brutally, the man assaults and murders her in the opening of this book. Thus, Susie narrates The Lovely Bones from beyond the grave, telling the story of her beloved family after she “goes missing,” as she waits for them to discover her death and bring her killer to justice. A unique novel which takes an admittedly odd turn towards the end, but kept me reading all the same.

Book Review: What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

whatdreamsWhat Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson is a story of the afterlife, taking place in the next world. When our main character, Chris, passes on to the other side, he’s still too attached to his beloved wife, Ann, to let her go. This causes her much suffering, as his presence only intensifies Ann’s awareness of her husband’s absence, and her grief for him. To end her sorrow, Ann commits suicide, leaving her and Chris’s grown children behind.

But Chris is devastated to discover that, instead of being reunited in heaven together, his wife’s tragic actions have condemned her to her own self-made hell, where she continues to mourn her husband and will be unable to see, hear, or recognize him, even when he presents himself to her. Despite his spiritual aides’ warnings that those who traverse to hell never return to heaven, and that his wife will never recognize him again for eternity, Chris braves the journey into the fiery pits of hell to save her.

Alongside the plot, Matheson weaves an intricate backdrop of the afterlife, a place namely controlled by the mind and by one’s beliefs, much physically freer than our living world, but still with its own rules and natural laws. This is not a religious book, and Matheson’s interpretation of the afterlife is more “new age” or metaphysical (c.f. the sources he lists in the back of the novel). A fascinating read, a beautiful love story, and – I might add – quite different than the film.