The Weight of Memory

Author: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Smucker’s best story yet!

Paul Elias has just received a terminal diagnosis of cancer and has been given months to live.  He can accept that it is his time to die, but he can’t accept that he doesn’t have alternate arrangements for someone to take care of his granddaughter, Pearl.  Pearl’s dad, Paul’s son John, is not in the picture and frankly, Paul is not sure where to even start.  When he picks up Pearl from school, she seems to have already devised a plan and tells him that they will be taking a trip back to Paul’s hometown of Nysa, where he hasn’t been or spoken about since the drowning death of his wife 40 years ago.

Once in Nysa, Paul gets reacquainted with an old friend and finds that the town is nothing like he remembered.  The longer they stay in Nysa, the more Pearl starts to act like her grandmother, causing Paul to question her sanity as well as everything he knows.  Perhaps this wasn’t the best place to come.

Having read all of Shawn Smucker’s books, I can easily say that this is the best one!  The story is very introspective and will have readers questioning things throughout the entire story.  Told from Paul’s point of view, readers pick up when Paul is in his upper 50s and are introduced to Paul’s world as it is today.  At the beginning, parts of the story seem disorganized and the flow doesn’t necessarily follow any particular format but hang on because everything will be revealed through memories. 

As readers push forward, they will notice many parallels between the past and present, most notably between Pearl and her grandmother, Mary.  There is quite a bit of supernatural elements throughout that aren’t necessarily explained, but it makes the story more suspenseful and will keep readers turning the pages.  I found it difficult to put down the book after each chapter because I wanted to find out what happens next.  The ending is quite subjective and likely some readers won’t enjoy it, but there is ray of sunlight that shines some hope.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Almost Damned

Author: Christopher Leibig

Publisher: Koehler Books

Release Date: April 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A legal thriller of Heavenly proportions!

Samson Young has learned a lot in the last year, both about himself and the world in general.  As his caseload has grown, he has started to realize that the people in his life and those that he has represented are remarkably interconnected.  As events start to unfold before him, he realizes that all the difficult cases he has been involved in are leading up to the biggest case of his life, where we will literally have to lay out good and evil.  But not everyone wants this case to happen and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop it coming to pass!

So, everything in Chris’s previous book written five years ago that was confusing, yet somewhat interesting, has finally come into focus with his new release.  This book was much more interesting and really delves into an area that a lot of people don’t know about.  Readers will be transported to a world in the time of Genesis before the flood of Noah when the Sons of God fell from earth to mate with human woman, thereby creating a mixed race.  A large part of this book calls on the Book of Enoch, which is only used in the Ethiopian bible, but goes into much more detail on the events concerning this.  If you haven’t read (or even heard) of that, don’t worry, Leibig does the legwork for you in this and may cause you to even do research on your own.  The way this is all laid out makes it really interesting and worth a read.

There is a lot of foul language throughout the book as well as some implied sex scenes, though nothing is graphic.  This book is recommended for mature audiences.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Ancestor

Author: Lee Mathew Goldberg

Publisher: All Due Respect Publishing

Release Date: August 20, 2020

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A very intriguing premise with back and forth timelines and a hint of the supernatural with greed, anger, and love at the heart of the story.

When Wyatt Barlow wakes up frozen in the Alaskan wilderness, he has no idea who he is, where he is, or more strangely when he is. The only thing he has with him are a journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He watches and sees another man hunting close by and realizes the man looks exactly like him, minus the beard. Wyatt follows the other man home and studies him with his family. It doesn’t take him long to realize he is no longer in his own time and his family is long gone. Wyatt soon befriends Travis, his lookalike and concludes Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt originally came to Alaska looking for gold and sets his mind at finding it once again and hopefully a family as well.

The Ancestor is an interesting premise with touches of the supernatural that just didn’t finish strong for me. There was no surprise or twist that I didn’t see coming. I was really hoping for a strong ending, instead it fell completely flat with what was easy. For the most part, I didn’t find a connection with any of the characters that made me care enough to be invested in their stories. The dialogue was forced in most instances and the language was too harsh for my liking. Supernatural or Science Fiction is not my usual genre to read, but I decided to give this one a try after first hearing about it and being intrigued. There was not enough evidence or background to show how this might have happened to Wyatt. Even with a science fiction novel you want the story to make sense, but this book didn’t provide that, it was just written and we were expected to believe it without anything to back up the claims. While I think Science Fiction fans will enjoy this one, it just wasn’t for me. I recommend it to those that enjoy sci-fi and speculative fiction without wanting much explanation for the events they read.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

These Nameless Things

These Nameless ThingsAuthor: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 30, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A retelling of Inferno that will draw readers from all genres.

Dan has lived in the village for a long time.  He escaped captivity from the mountain long ago and occupies the first house of the village that other people come to after they have escaped captivity.  He keeps watch as they come through and rushes them to the village leader to best decide how to help and rehabilitate them.  There is one person that Dan has been waiting to see come out of the mountain: his brother.  He knows that he can’t leave this village until his brother comes through.  Many of the villagers have begun to move out of the village toward the eastern plains, but some remain and are unsure why they are waiting.  But one day a woman comes through the mountain and people begin to remember their lives before the mountain.  One thing begins to become clear; everyone seems to be waiting for Dan’s brother.

At its core, this is a modernization of Inferno by Dante Alighieri.  Readers will discover many parallels between this book and the original.  However, if you haven’t read Inferno, it will not take away from this story.  I was quickly pulled in by the intrigue of Dan’s experience in the village and the appearance of Kathy.  I devoured this book to discover what was going on and why people were suddenly remembering past lives and what it all had to do with Dan.  The first half of the book sets up the base of the story and the second half is the trip through the inferno to rescue Dan’s brother.  There were several tie ins -between the two parts that I had to reflect on to fully understand the significance.  My one complaint is that the ending just wrapped up to quickly.  I felt that there was a lot of tension built up and it just sort of ended.  Aside from that, it is a worthwhile read that many will enjoy.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel

Tuscany

Author: James Markert

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: April 9, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another interesting book by Market, yet unlike anything I’ve read of his before.

 Vitto has just returned home after thirteen months spent in Europe at the close of World War II.  He witnessed the evils of war that refused to stay behind when he returned home.  Now back home, his five-year-old son doesn’t want anything to do with him and his father’s memory has left him with what doctors have begun to call Alzheimer’s disease.  He has nightmares and is a classic case of post traumatic stress, so he checks himself into a newly constructed VA hospital.  However, one night his father packs his bag and runs away.  After his wife Valerie comes for him, they travel to the one place that would have any semblance of normal for his father, The Tuscany Hotel.  Built and run by Vitto’s parents, the hotel used to be filled with artists, actors, and writers who were looking for inspiration.  Now the famed fountain in the center courtyard is mysteriously flowing again and Vitto’s father has started drinking from it and it seems that his dementia is disappearing.  When word gets out, the rooms begin to be filled again by people seeking control of their minds.  But does drinking this water come with a cost?

 I’ve read the author’s previous books and I must say that this was unlike anything he’s written before.  The story is told primarily at the end of World War II when Vitto returns home from the war.  However, there are also some occasional back stories thrown in concerning his mom, Magdalena, and her upbringing as well as when he and Valerie were kids at the hotel.  Markert does a good job of tying several of the loose ends together, but it’s done at random (almost as if he is trying to simulate a type of mis-organization for the reader).  There is also a lot of Greek mythology throughout the book as it relates to the layout and design of the hotel.  So, if you are not a fan of that, you will likely get bored with multiple areas of the book and the stories that go along with the architecture and sculptures within the hotel.  Ultimately it is a book about memories and how different individuals cope with painful memories.  Markert does a great job weaving his supernatural flair into the story as well, making it his own.

 I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair

curse of misty wayfairAuthor: Jaime Jo Wright

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: January 22, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Two tales twist together to reveal a superstitious mystery.

Traveling photographer Thea Reed has been making her way to the small town of Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin to locate the mother who abandoned her in an orphanage when she was four.  Taken in by a photographer and his wife, Thea has learned the trade on production of memorial photographs, which she takes of Rose Coyle and her recently deceased sister Mary.  As Thea settles in the small town, she learns of a curse that has been put upon the Coyles’ so that they often die unexpectedly.  And each time before they pass, it’s said the ghost of a woman who was murdered is seen.  Clues eventually lead Thea to an asylum just outside of the town’s border in the neighboring woods.  Will her quest lead her to be haunted by the ghost as well?

One hundred years later, Heidi Lane ventures to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin because of a letter that her mother wrote.  Heidi always felt that she didn’t belong with her structured family, so she left out as soon as she could.  Now her father has died, her mother has dementia, and her sister and brother-in-law are running a lodge complex.  Her sister Vicki needs her help, but when she stumbles on a photo album in an antiques shop that contains a photo of a deceased woman who looks just like her with the name Misty Wayfair scribbled on the back, Heidi begins to have strange occurrences happen to her.  From messages on a mirror to random notes to arson, Heidi starts to fear for her life.  But will people believe her? Or just assume she is trying to get attention?

Wow!  This book was really hard to put down at night because you felt like someone was going to be watching you though a window.  Seriously, it puts goosebumps on your arms while you read it.  What a great story that Jaime Jo Wright has brought to life.  Two tales that intertwine to reveal the mystery behind a curse.  It’s interesting to see that what may be solved can still live as a misguided legend for another century.

Both Thea and Heidi are similar in character.  They are insecure, but for different reasons.  Thea for her abandonment and Heidi for her need for independence.  Both women also strike up relationships with men that are quite different from society as well, but still good natured at heart.  The story flowed flawlessly between two time periods and several times I found myself wanting to just continue with one storyline to get the final answer but was so much more intrigued each time it switched.

If you love great fiction, especially with a storyline that will frighten you at times when reading, give this book a chance.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions express within are my own.

Top Supernatural Fiction

Our next category covers supernatural fiction and have we got a range to pick from.  Check out these picks if you’re looking for something a little different to read.

The man he never was1. The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart

An intensely intriguing story that will leave readers looking into their own dark side wondering whether darkness or light will win the ultimate battle.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steal Away Home2. Steal Away Home by Billy Coffey

Coffey is a master at throwing the supernatural into ordinary life.  This southern novel is a home run!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

49th mystic3. The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker

Can we just say how excited we were to have a Ted Dekker book to read this year!  For those that are part of the circle, this book will take you for a ride!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rise of the Mystics4. Rise of the Mystics by Ted Dekker

Okay, okay.  We know it’s another Dekker book, but it really keeps the supernatural theme moving along.  If you haven’t started his books, make that a 2019 resolution.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Blooms From Dust5. What Blooms from Dust by James Markert

The surprise book from this category centers on the dust bowl in Oklahoma.  After a tornado frees a convicted killer, he returns to his hometown to set the record straight during one of the darkest storms of the era.

Read the full review here.

The Edge of Over There

Edge of over thereAuthor: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

I love it when the middle of a story gets filled in!

The Tree of Life changed everything. It changed the way Abra saw the world.  It changed her relationship with her family.  It even changed her relationship with Samuel.  On the day Tennin fell and Abra became the next guardian of the tree of life, she started to notice changes around her.  It started in the hospital where she and Sam were recovering.  That is where she met the next demon taking over the search for the tree.  She was even more ruthless than Jinn and more ambitious.  She not only wanted here, she wanted over there too.  Even with all Abra had learned, nothing could have prepared her for what was going to happen in New Orleans.  No one saw it coming or could have guessed what was going to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even more than The Day the Angels Fell.  This one fills in part of the gaps between when Samuel and Abra destroyed the tree and Abra’s funeral, at least one event in particular.  The previous book left that section pretty wide open and I’m glad this was the transition to the next phase.  I enjoy the way that Smucker is weaving these worlds together to intertwine with popular stories that have been heard concerning different events.  I also enjoyed the story of Leo and Ruby and how it tangled into Abra’s story, even though parts of it left me aching.  I hope to see more of Ruby in the next book and maybe she can find her way into Samuel’s life.  Either way, I’m sure it will be another fantastic read!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Steal Away Home

Steal Away HomeAuthor: Billy Coffey

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Batter up! Coffey’s produced another hit that’s sure to be a grand slam!

Owen Cross was brought up to do one thing: play baseball. His father was a promising pitcher that would have made it to the big leagues if he hadn’t blown out his shoulder in college.  Instead of facing disappointment in his life, he focused all his ambitions onto his son to make it for both of them.  He found work as the school janitor in Camden, Virginia and continued to make his son the best catcher and hitter that the school could produce.  Owen also focused on his love of baseball until he met Michaela Dullahan, a young girl from Shantytown.  She was poor, abused, lonely, and considered plain white trash.  Owen immediately fell in love with her and they quickly formed a bond.  He was going to go off to play college ball and she would go with him to save her from a life of despair.  Then the night of senior prom changed everything.  A stupid idea of some classmate’s decision to play chicken with the train brought forth a supernatural experience to Owen and Michaela that will change them forever and possibly drive them apart.

Of all Coffey’s novels, this one may be the one that speaks the most to me. It reminds me so much of the town that I grew up in and how divided and cliquish it was.  Even though I grew up in Texas, the same scenarios took place at high school.  My husband also read the book and said it sparked a memory of his from high school as well.  There was a girl a couple of years younger than him that was considered white trash who had to walk about three miles to school every day.  No one would pick her up along the way, they just passed her by.  Than one day, he decided to give her a ride to school, which then turned into most days.  They never really talked along the five minute drive, but she always said thank you when they got there.  One day while sitting in his car, he overhead a group of kids talking about him, mostly in a negative aspect.  Out of nowhere, the girl that he helped stood up for him to the group.  All it takes is a little kindness to make a difference.

As always, Coffey’s books deal with the supernatural and with religion. This book once again puts the small town church in the spotlight with its traditions and prejudices that members are often blind to.  And it’s not just in small town churches.  I’ve seen the same thing happen in many churches where people go to socialize more than get sustenance for their faith.  If someone they didn’t like from town were to suddenly show up, would they be able to show kindness?  Or try to keep them from coming in?  We always hope for the former, but sometimes the latter is true in our hearts.

Being a fan of baseball, I thoroughly enjoyed how Coffey told the story through the innings of a major league baseball game. Alternating between Owen’s present troubles and thinking of his past really kept the story flowing well.  I was just enjoying the story and wanted to know the middle to see how things dissolved when I reached the train scene and everything got thrown for a loop in true Coffey fashion.  I also thought it was interesting that we jumped out of Mattingly again, except for the championship baseball game, which featured Junior Hewitt who once struck out Chipper Jones in the majors (read There Will be Stars).

All this to say, Coffey is on his game and I recommend this book to supernatural lovers and anyone who loves a good story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Cold Water

cold WaterAuthor: Samuel Parker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A pulse-pounding thrill ride that will haunt you past the last page and well into the night.

When Michael wakes up after being buried alive, he just wants to give up at first. He has spent half his life behind bars since before he was a teenager. Now, he has gone back to his home town hoping to live a quiet life and be left alone. The people of Coldwater have other ideas, set on seeking the punishment they feel the prison system lacked. Michael is trying to keep himself alive and figure out the dark powerful forces that are creeping inside him and destroying everything he comes in contact with. The only question now is whether or not he be able to stop it before it is too late.

From the extraordinary mind that brought us Purgatory Road comes the next dark and chilling tale that will be sure to keep readers up well past their bedtime. I was once again mesmerized by the work of Samuel Parker. His writing is so real and chilling that I find the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I turn each page. For a supernatural thriller to be this chilling and realistic is a feat not many can accomplish.  After Purgatory Road, I knew I had to read what Samuel Parker wrote next and I am happy to say I was not disappointed. There are several aspects to this story: the darkness within us all, how we deal with said darkness, and also how our darkness can affect those around us in ways we may never know or understand.  This is not a book for the faint of heart, readers need to be aware that it is dark and just might keep you up at night. With that being said, it is also a good look into the soul of man and a way to see just what we all need to see and be aware of about ourselves. I recommend this to readers wanting a look inside and willing to take what they see and use it for good.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.