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

foretold

*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: Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

‘Someone or multiple someones are intentionally rewriting history,’ Alice says. 
‘And keeping the Titanic stuck in time before its sinking,’ Susannah says.” – p. 249

Haunting the Deep (Knopf, 2017) is the sequel to How to Hang a Witch by #1 NYT bestselling YA author, Adriana Mather. In Mather’s second YA paranormal thriller, we pick up six months after the ending of How to Hang a Witch. It’s spring time, and Samantha Mather has been avoiding magic and the Descendants of the Salem witches, ever since they were all almost hanged to death.

…they’re descended from the accused Salem witches and I’m descended from the stodgy Puritan minister, Cotton Mather, who hanged them.” – p. 6

But the Descendants need Sam as part of their circle now, especially since Alice and Susannah have been receiving psychic warnings about something bad about to happen in Salem – again. This time, it accompanies Salem High’s upcoming Spring Fling dance, which is Titanic-themed. At the same time, and perhaps not coincidentally, Sam begins receiving mysterious packages by a long-dead relative who survived the sinking of the Titanic. When she touches the enchanted objects, she is transported to a strange alternate replica of the ship on the days before it sank, where the doomed passengers are all enjoying themselves, and Sam herself begins to forget who she really is.  Only when Alice points out that these enchantments not only endanger Sam but other people does Sam finally agree to join their circle and embrace her magical gifts to help save the day once more.

The best part about this book, in my opinion, is that we got way more of the teen witches: Alice, Mary, and Susannah. I felt they were a bit underutilized in the previous book, so I was delighted this book centered more on them and their coven sisterhood with Sam. We also finally get to meet Sam’s father, and Jaxon’s character takes a backseat to some strange magic while we have the return of the seventeenth-century spirit whom Sam’s in love with, Elijah. But the second-best part about the book are the enchanted objects and the creepy revisits to the Titanic, where Sam plays the role of an Edwardian young lady courting a young man. IMO, Mather should really try her hand at writing full historical fiction (with paranormal elements, of course), as the historical scenes were thoroughly engaging and – dare I say? – even better written than the contemporary ones.

I adore how Mather gave a voice to the immigrants and third-class passengers who didn’t survive the ship’s tragic fate. Also, I love the way she wrote their Irish accents; I could hear them so clearly in my head. The idea of putting on a dress and being transported into another iconic time and place is such a fascinating concept to me; I could read a whole series about that alone. Given everything I loved about it, there were a few things I would’ve wanted a deeper explanation for. Namely, it wasn’t entirely clear why the perpetrator (not spoiling who!) wanted Sam to stay on the Titanic with them. I get why they needed her to summon someone else (again, no spoilers), but why try to keep Sam there, deluded, on the ship forever too? That part didn’t seem to be explained. But maybe it was and I was just reading too fast because I was too excited to see what would happen next.

Above all, the world-building in this series so far has made me a fan. The many ways spells can work in this world, such as through potions, writing, ritual, or enchanted artifacts, keeps the stories creative and fresh. I really hope Adriana Mather is working on a third book in this series, as I can’t wait to see where she’ll transport us next. I’ll be the first in line to go with her!

Watch the awesome book trailer

Memorable Quotes

“‘…stop judging magic and get over yourself.‘” – Alice, p. 43

‘You’re not allowed to try to fix me. I’m not broken.’” – Sam, p. 234

I’m here worrying about having to go to the Titanic as a first-class passenger with tea and parasols; meanwhile, some of those passengers have probably been locked in steerage for the better part of a century.” – p. 242

Book Review: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

“I have to convince a group of people who hate me to help solve a curse that could be killing our families.” – p. 125

How to Hang a Witch (Knopf, 2016) is a YA paranormal novel written by Adriana Mather, an actual descendant of the Salem Witch Trials’ Cotton Mather. The protagonist in this story is Samantha Mather – a fictional descendant of Cotton’s – who has just moved from New York City into her late grandmother’s home in Salem, Massachusetts. Sam lives with her stepmother, Vivian, while her father remains in a coma for unknown reasons.

As soon as Sam arrives to Salem, the town wants her out. Especially a group of goth girls at school, known as the Descendants, who are descendants of the persecuted Salem witches. It doesn’t help that strange and awful things keep occurring to everyone who comes into contact with Sam, almost as if she’s cursing them…when, in truth, it’s likely she’s the one who’s cursed.

In quick succession, Sam meets two guys: the outgoing boy next door, Jaxon; and a seventeenth-century ghost who haunts her grandmother’s mansion, Elijah. Sam is the only one who can see Elijah, and while he wants her gone, he also begins to help her piece together Salem’s true history to uncover why she is cursed, and how to end the pattern of killings in town. I liked the love triangle created between Sam, Jaxon, and the spirit, Elijah. Something about Sam and Elijah’s relationship reminded me of Casper and Christina Ricci’s character in Casper (1995).

This fast-paced YA occult suspense was an absolute delight to read. The chapters are short and punchy; Sam’s narration is to-the-point, sympathetic, and often humorous; and Mather’s supernatural vision of Salem, as well as her fascinating and approachable portrayal of its history, jumps off the e-pages. And we can’t forget the witches in the story – Susannah, Alice, Mary, and Lizzie – who are like something straight out of Mean Girls or The Craft. If you’re a fan of fun commercial YA with some solid, spooky witchcraft, a history-seeped mystery, and a good ol’-fashioned ghost story with a positive and powerful message, you need How to Hang a Witch in your life.

Watch the amazing book trailer!

Memorable Quotes

“‘Almost everything worth believing in cannot be seen. Love, for instance.‘” – p. 106

“‘Kindly do not interrupt me,’ he says with anything but kindness. Kindly I will smack you in your perfect face.” – Sam and Elijah, p. 116

The silence between us is thick with secrets.” p. 196

It is the greatest evil of all, to separate people who love each other.” – Abigail, p. 232

“‘I’m truly sorry for all of your pain. But I’m not the cause of it anymore. You are.‘” – Cotton, p. 339

‘Nothing is going to change unless you make different choices…’” – p. 341

Book Review: Forewarned (Book 2 of the Near Deaths Series) by Holly M. Campbell

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

I have been waiting over a year for this novel. I could say that it delivered, it didn’t disappoint, that it was even better than Book 1, Foreshadowed – but those would be understatements. To put it simply, this book floored me. Holly M. Campbell is a talented YA paranormal/suspense writer whose career is going places. This is the third book I’ve read by her. Her writing is professional, consistent, and totally compelling. If you’re going to pick up any of her books, make sure you don’t have other plans for the day, because I guarantee you won’t be putting it down till you’re done.

Forewarned (48fourteen Publishing, 2016) picks up seventeen-year-old mind reader Hope Murdoch’s story within a few weeks of where Book 1 left off. Hope and her death-seeing boyfriend, Lance, have thwarted a serial rapist/murderer and rescued their friend from a horrific fate. Doing so has changed Hope’s future…but this time, her predicted death is even worse. The mystery of the sociopath’s identity drove me insane with burning curiosity throughout the book as the teens secretly conspire to cipher who he is. Though Hope and Lance have every intention of continuing to combine their psychic gifts to prevent more kidnappings and deaths, Hope comes to learn that it’s not so simple, that not every death can be avoided and, sometimes, by changing one outcome, worse outcomes may unintentionally result for others .

Making matters more  challenging are Hope’s parents, who’ve understandably grounded her and don’t trust Lance, an unhelpful detective and skeptical school newspaper reporter, the painful return of Lance’s ex-girlfriend, and the fact that even the potential victims whom Hope tries to warn don’t believe her – or don’t want to. While the book started out with plenty of laughs from Hope’s trademark sarcasm, it definitely took a turn for the darker, creepier…until twisting into an unexpected ending that totally tore my heart out.

Reading this book reminded me so much of my high school summers curled on the basement couch watching “Twin Peaks” (Frost/Lynch, 1990)  reruns with my big brother. Between the murder mystery of a beautiful high school girl, Hope’s creepy David Lynch-like dreams about Death and her Spirit Guide, and the spooky mood, “Twin Peaks” fans, plus readers of teen suspense will adore this book. The paranormal aspects of the story are so natural and realistic, I almost forgot I was reading a paranormal book. I give Book 2 of the Near Deaths Series five enthusiastic stars. My only plea is that we don’t have to wait a whole year again for the third and final volume! 🙂

Book Review: Foreshadowed (Book 1 of the Near Deaths Series) by Holly M. Campbell

Foreshadowed is the latest 48fourteen novel by new author Holly M. Campbell, and is the best teen paranormal thriller I’ve read in a long time. It’s well-written, equally dark as it is funny, with a truly brilliant premise and a unique and interesting narrator.

The story centers around Hope, a high school junior who can read minds. This aspect of the story is well-done; the reader quickly understands both the downside and perks of Hope’s ability, and can empathize with her being considered a social outcast as such. However, Hope soon learns she’s not alone in the realm of paranormal abilities when she meets Lance, a new classmate with the ability to see how a person will die when he looks them in the eye. Since Hope can read minds, she sees her death in Lance’s thoughts when they meet. Eventually, the two will team together to try and stop her death – and the deaths of others.

Isn’t that such a freakin’ cool premise?! I think it’s brilliant. And the story delivers. I love Hope and Lance; they are both parts realistic and unusual, darkly funny and their banter felt natural. Even the secondary characters are complex, believable, and interesting to read about – especially Bryce, Hope’s shallow but caring next-door neighbor.

If you like teen paranormal thrillers with a dark edge, murder mysteries, and suspenseful books that are seamless and effortless to keep reading without putting down, I can’t recommend Foreshadowed enough. Congratulations to Campbell on her debut, and I eagerly await the next book in the Near Deaths series.

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures (Book 1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures (2009) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is a contemporary paranormal teen romance. It’s a lot like Twilight, but set in the U.S. south, and told from the boy’s perspective.

Ethan Wate is a good southern boy in Gatlin, South Carolina, when a mysterious new girl arrives to his high school. With her strange abilities to break windows with her emotions and communicate with Ethan telepathically, it’s no surprise that Lena Duchannes (“rhymes with rain”) is a Caster (or witch). Because of her “differences,” however, she’s immediately out-casted by everyone except Ethan, who falls irrevocably in love with her. However, it’s forbidden – and impossible – for a Mortal and a Caster to share a future together.

Lena also has a colorful Caster family, who each possess their own supernatural gifts. Along with an historical Civil War subplot involving Lena’s great-great-great-great Caster grandmother and Ethan’s great-great-great-great Confederate soldier uncle, and the impending doom of Lena possibly turning into a Dark Caster on her sixteenth birthday, there is plenty of mystery to keep the reader invested. The first of a series, this book will enchant fans of Twilight and other teen readers interested in paranormal romance.

Book Review: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

The Goddess Test (2011) by Aimee Carter has an attractive cover, an intriguing prologue, and a neat set-up: girl moves to small American town, gets caught up in a hidden paranormal world, and embarks upon a whirlwind romance. Life-threatening suspense ensues.

Kate Winters is an ordinary teenage girl, but her mother is terminally ill with cancer. Her mother’s dying wish is to return to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where she was born, to die there in peace. After moving to Eden with her mother, Kate enrolls in the local high school and meets several new friends… and enemies. Through a creepy turn of events, Kate must make a deal with the devil– well, with Hades, ruler of the Underworld: spend six months in his otherworldly Eden Manor, and take a series of seven tests, to determine if she will become the new Queen of the Underworld. If Kate fails, Hades dies. If she passes, she becomes immortal, and must spend half of every year with Hades as his bride and co-ruler of the Underworld, for eternity. Kate agrees, only because by doing so, she’s allowed more time with her dying mother, just for trying. How can she refuse?

Though containing some discrepancies (i.e. immortal gods can die; ancient pre-Christian gods celebrate Christmas and base their goddess tests off of the Christian 7 Deadly Sins, etc.) and I wasn’t completely sold on the romance, there are some exciting action sequences, and a few of the end’s twists caught me off-guard. Readers of teen paranormal romance, and fans of books like Twilight and Beautiful Creatures, are Carter’s target audience, and will appreciate this novel.

Book Review: The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

The Twilight books are fun and easy reads. The four novels follow Bella Swan, the self-proclaimed clumsy, ordinary teenage girl, who moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father. There, she falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen. But dating a vampire is dangerous: not only could he – or his family – snap from the tempting scent of her blood and kill her at any moment (and for this reason, she and Edward must remain chaste), but the vampire community has codes of conduct and secrecy. In other words, humans shouldn’t be hanging around in their midst. Bella is ultimately faced with a choice: will she give up her mortal life and family, and endure the excruciating process of becoming a vampire, to spend an eternity with Edward? Or will she stay herself, the human Bella, and possibly lose her true love?

Also in the picture is Jacob Black, a Native American werewolf who loves Bella as well. Inexplicably, Bella feels an attachment to him, too. Tension ensues, as the vampires and werewolves are warring tribes. Bella tries to reconcile between them, her lover and her best friend, but the two may never mesh.

Sometimes the narrative became bogged down with Bella’s ordinary high school friends and more mundane experiences. As well, the dialogue in these books needed work. But Meyer’s original world and fleshed-out mythology is what kept me reading and created her unique brand. At any rate, I always enjoy taking a peek into other fandoms. (I’m an original Harry Potter nerd myself.)

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A mysterious hitman called “the man Jack” has been trying to murder Bod (short for “Nobody”) since Bod was a baby. The only place where the boy is safe is where he was raised– a graveyard. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in this case, it’s a village of ghosts who raise Bod in this fascinating, eerie paranormal adventure by Neil Gaiman, entitled The Graveyard Book.

Because he lives in a graveyard with a community of lovable ghosts for adoptive parents, Bod, still a live boy, somehow straddles the worlds of living and dead. He has a mysterious, Grim Reaper-esque guardian, called Silas (am I weird that I found him sexy?), who protects him from the world outside the grave, and provides supplies for Bod’s corporeal needs (food, clothes, etc.). But Bod, now an adolescent, is ready to take on adventures in the living world, and within the tombs of other ghouls, even encountering some demon-like mythological monsters.

Gaiman tries to lighten the dark tone of this story with his playfulness and the likes of affectionate, mothering ghosts, but it’s still creepy. As a grown adult, I made the mistake of reading this “children’s book” alone at night before bed! But don’t get me wrong, it’s very well-written, worth the read, and the macabre tones will be popular with fans of the genre. The end also leaves things open for a sequel, which is exciting!