By Cheryl Owen-Wilson
Many readers find solace by escaping through the pages of a great book. In this time of a lock down pandemic my friends on social media have asked me for my top five of everything. I’ve been asked for my top five movies, bread recipes–have you tried to find yeast at your local market? Yikes!—to my top five books of all time. Now, how can anyone possibly narrow it down to five? But, the idea of it got me to thinking about all of my amazing writer friends who I would love to see on a top five nationwide list. Please note, I’m fortunate to know many Oregon authors. Since I couldn’t place them all on my list–if you—dear writing friend do not appear on my list it does not mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy your book/books as well.
Here is what I picked from the shelves of my library:
Northwood Chronicles, Elizabeth Engrstrom
“Dark fantasy writer Engstrom starts on familiar ground, but rapidly turns this ‘novel in stories’ into a genre-blending exploration of love, aging, grief and sacrifice. Fast-paced, melancholy and beauty, the overarching narrative binds a collection of good stories into a superb if unconventional novel.”
Littlest Death, Eric Witchey
Independent Publisher Book Awards Silver Medal for Fantasy Fiction International Book Award Visionary Fiction Winner One human soul and a little respect isn’t too much to ask for, but both are hard to get if you’ve only been a death for a thousand years. Shunned by other grim reapers, Littlest Death yearns for the respect given to deaths who bring human souls from Overworld into Underworld. She has only been a grim reaper for a thousand years, but she works hard at the jobs she’s given. Really hard! No other death gathers in MILLIONS of souls at a time like she does. Okay, they are just the souls of fungi, bacteria, and single-celled critters like amoebas, but—MILLIONS! If she could bring in just one human soul, the other deaths would stop looking down on her. She sets out to spy on the most accomplished death in the history of dying, Oldest Death. She figures she can learn a few things from him. And, of course, she does. She just doesn’t learn what she thought she would learn, and the learning comes hard. Desperate to become a real death, frustrated by humans and their attachments to one another, hounded by a Hell Puppy, ridiculed by other deaths, and undermined by her own ambition, she journeys the Earth and the Underworld in search of a trick that will let her gain the respect she believes she deserves. Unfortunately, her actions hurt the living, undermine the natural order, and threaten the eternal flow of souls between life and death. By the time she understands the damage she’s done, it may be too late to save herself and the souls she has hurt. An Afterlife Fantasy by award winning author Eric Witchey.
A Parliament of Crows, Alan Clark
Inspired by the true crimes of the Wardlaw sisters. In A Parliament of Crows, the three Mortlow sisters are prominent American educators of the nineteenth century, considered authorities in teaching social graces to young women. They also pursue a career of fraud and murder. Their loyalty to one another and their need to keep their secrets is a bond that tightens with each crime, forcing them closer together and isolating them from the outside world. Their ever tightening triangle suffers from madness, religious zealotry, and a sense of duty warped by trauma they experienced as teenagers in Georgia during Sherman’s March to the Sea. As their crimes come back to haunt them and a long history of resentments toward each other boils to the surface, their bond of loyalty begins to fray. Will duty to family hold or will they turn on each other like ravening crows?
Kilmoon: A County Clare Mystery, Lisa Alber
Californian Merrit Chase doesn’t know what she’s in for when she travels to an Irish village famous for its matchmaking festival. She simply wants to meet her father, a celebrated matchmaker, in hopes that she can mend her troubled past. Instead, her arrival triggers a rising tide of violence, and Merrit finds herself both suspect and victim, accomplice and pawn, in a manipulative game that began thirty years previously. When she discovers that the matchmaker’s treacherous past is at the heart of the chaos, she must decide how far she will go to save him from himself and to get what she wants, a family.
Lisa Alber evokes a world in which ancient tradition collides with modern village life and ageless motivators such as greed and love still wield their power. Kilmoon captures the moodiness of the Irish landscape in a brooding mystery that explores family secrets, betrayal, vengeance, and murder.
Death is A Star, Christina Lay
A contemporary fantasy featuring time traveling Assyrian sisters, a circus in hiding, a body-snatching Demon seeking self-actualization, and heroic elephants. Theda wants only to get home to Nineveh, but her sister Irene believes controlling the demon and exploiting his unlimited power is the way to go. Theda must come to grips with her own role in this black magic mix-up and risk her bond with home, family, her beloved elephants and life itself in order to stop an ancient evil from being unleashed upon an unsuspecting modern world.
If you’ve not read these authors I highly recommend you immediately add them to your “to read” list. I would love to hear what your top five are?