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.

Editor’s Review: Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced by R.J. Garcia

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*I was the editor of this novel for The Parliament House Press.

Nocturnal Meetings of the Mispalced (The Parliament House Press, 2018) by R.J. Garcia is my favorite book I’ve edited to date – and one of my all-time favorite novels ever. This unputdownable debut blends my favorite elements of YA, horror/mystery, small towns, a group of friends, and a creepy, but at times also humorous and romantic, Stranger Things vibe to create one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.

The story is told from the POV of Tommy Walker, a fifteen-year-old boy whose mom has a drug problem and can no longer care for him and his little sister. They’re sent to live with a kind, young uncle and aunt they’ve never met before in the small town of Summertime, Indiana. There, Tommy befriends his neighbor, Finn – a lovable, geeky, and incredibly brave Ron Weasley-esque boy, who was easily my favorite character. Finn’s stepdad is a flawed and abusive man…and he’s also the town sheriff.

Tommy begins meeting up with Finn and Finn’s friends, two girls named Silence and Annie, at late-night meetings in the woods. However, these meetings quickly turn from lighthearted to sinister, as the misfit group begins to unravel clues to a cold case local murder and kidnapping that had happened decades ago. No one believes them, but the kids are in danger. And Summertime holds darker and more personal secrets than Tommy ever could’ve imagined.

I honestly can’t praise this book enough. It’s a haunting and phenomenal story, with unforgettable characters – even the side ones – that I still think of from time to time. If you’re looking for a solid read with an empathetic, young male lead, a small-town murder mystery, deadly secrets, complex characters, and a hint of humor and touching YA romance, you need to add Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced to your TBR, like, yesterday.

Book Review: Grave Little Secrets by Stacy R. Collins

*Full disclosure: I voluntarily received an ARC of this novel from the publisher and provided my honest review.

Grave Little Secrets (48fourteen, 2017) is the first novel of YA author, Stacy R. Collins. We meet Alex Spurlock early one summer morning, and immediately learn three things about her: she has a twin sister, their family has recently moved to a new town, and Alex is hiding a terrible secret. The once-popular Alex punishes herself by quarantining herself to her home and not associating with anybody in New Hope, Rhode Island. But soon, she begins to receive threatening notes, packages, and text messages from someone who knows what she did.

Getting to the heart of what Alex’s devastating secret is, where her father has gone and why, and who’s stalking her will keep readers eagerly turning the pages. Even when we discover the answers to these gripping questions, there are more twists to come. The third act takes on a darker and more tragic tone than expected; although, despite the serious subject matter, readers will find a certain charm and authenticity in Alex’s brusque humor.  This is an edgy, contemporary new YA thriller told with honesty and grit. As a general advisory for this genre, I should note that it contains some explicit language. Congratulations, Mrs. Collins, on your debut!

Book Review: Native Son by Richard Wright

nativesonNative Son is a novel written by Richard Wright in 1940, which explores the question of nature vs. nurture from a racial perspective. The main character, Bigger, is a young black man experiencing the us vs. them world of the 1940s. He resents that he doesn’t have the same opportunities as white boys his age. Eventually, a series of mistakes leads to his unintentional murder of a wealthy white girl. The latter half of this book is his trial. The lawyers argue: were Bigger’s criminal acts his own, or the product of a society that forces his race into the roles expected of them? A thought-provoking and haunting piece of African American literature.

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: Dear America: Color Me Dark, The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, The Great Migration North (Chicago, Illinois 1919) by Patricia McKissack

colormeNellie Lee Love lives with her family at their undertaking business in the Corners of Tennessee. The Loves are a close-knit family, and Nellie is especially close with her sister, who is the same age as her most of the year, Erma Jean. One interesting character aspect in this book is that Erma Jean loves words and poetry, and Nellie prefers numbers, often fittingly filling her diary with number games. All seems to be going well until the girls’ Uncle Pace dies a brutal, mysterious death. Erma Jean stops speaking, and their father decides to relocate the girls, their mother, and his undertaking business to Chicago, where it was believed African Americans would be safer from the racist crimes and killings, and from groups like the KKK, down South. However, the family arrives to Chicago only to find that there is just as much racism– murders, rioting– and a new form of classism between blacks, up North.

Many of twelve-year-old Nellie’s entries were about her parents’ activism, politics, historical crimes and riots that occurred, and references to many famous African American activists, writers, and historical figures and their works. The historical note in the back was the longest and most extensive I’ve seen yet, complete with detailed bios of the many notable African American figures throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries mentioned in the dairy. I found Nellie and her family to be lovable characters.