Book Review—Between Life and Death

Between Life and Death Cover

Post-apocalyptic books featuring zombies are plentiful. Many follow the typical path. Usually, a quick-spreading virus infects just about everyone on the planet, turning the victims into flesh-craving monsters. A small band of survivors who have yet to be infected must fight for their survival, possibly while searching for a cure. Sound familiar? Oh, and you can bet there’ll be a high body count and plenty of gory action.

Between Life and Death by Ann Christy is different. Instead of loud-mouthed machos with guns, we have Emily, an eighteen-year-old cancer survivor who is holed up in a commercial building, trying desperately to keep herself from going crazy. She’s already doing what her late mother taught her—going on daily patrols and taking out the “deaders” that congregate just outside the fence. Emily is alone, but not for long. Because someone has been watching her—someone who needs her help. And soon, they will make contact.

I liked this novel. Though not big on action, the characters are well drawn and evoke in the reader a deep connection. The story is straightforward and compelling. It is an elegy to loneliness in a wrecked world. If you enjoy stories of courage, I recommend you read Between Life and Death.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

The World Is Dead. One Will Rise.Eighteen year old Emily has a system. She wakes, eats, brushes her teeth, then spends the morning bashing the monsters that gather at her fences. That’s labeled as cardio on her schedule. Vigorous cardio.

The problem isn’t staying alive anymore. It’s being alone. Two years of solitude while surrounded by death is too much. When she starts having deep conversations with the birds roosting on her roof, she realizes she’s in real trouble.

Going beyond her fences means almost certain death, but if she stays inside, insanity will eventually take her. When one of the monsters at her gate turns out to be the bearer of a message, Emily feels hope for the first time since the end came. There are others out there, but they’re in trouble and they won’t survive much longer without some help.

If Emily can brave a trip through the mad, dead world, she might have a shot at a real life. She just has to survive the trip, and that’s not going to be easy.

Between Life and Death: The In-Betweener is book one of the exciting post-apocalyptic adventure trilogy, Between Life and Death. This book can be read first, or you can dive back to the beginning of the end and read the prequel, Between Life and Death: The Book of Sam.

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The Girl in the Mirror Wins a BIBA Award!

The Girl in the Mirror Cover (BIBA S 3D)
Wow, I can’t think of a better way to end the year than to announce that The Girl in the Mirror, Book 1 in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series, has won a 2019 Best Indie Book Award (BIBA) in the Paranormal Fiction category!
BIBA is an international literary award recognizing outstanding indie authors, and I am overwhelmed with emotion at having won.
You can check out a sample of The Girl in the Mirror here. Just be sure to log in to your Amazon account. And one more thing—Book 2, House of the Shrieking Woman, is coming out soon. You can check out the cover and read the first chapter here.
Happy New Year, everyone! Peace and love.

Cover Reveal and Free Chapter—House of the Shrieking Woman

House of the Shrieking Woman Cover

I realize we are in holidays, but please take a moment to check out the cover of my newest novel, House of the Shrieking Woman. This is the second book in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series, scheduled for publication in early 2020. And to make December even sweeter, I’m also including a free chapter. Just scroll down to read it.

Enjoy this little taste of House of the Shrieking Woman. Peace and love.

Book Description

Despite the trauma she suffered after uncovering the deadly secret behind a house’s dark, violent past, Sarah Greene agrees to investigate a series of disturbing incidents at a women’s shelter. These events began with the arrival of a young Guatemalan woman—a troubled victim of domestic abuse. The frightening episodes point to a demonic force. And Sarah suspects the entity is connected to a powerful evil infesting Dos Santos—an insidious presence known as The Darkness.

Chapter One

January, 2011. It’s an off-day. Laurel Diamanté looked out the window of her four-hundred-dollar-a-week hotel room just off Pioneer Square. Normally at this time of year, the pelting rain would drive the homeless deeper into the dark recesses and under-explored burrows of Seattle, occasionally creating a comical juxtaposition of awkwardness during one of the city’s famed underground tours. But today was different. The sky was dense, an unrelenting gray blanket that covered the city to keep in the cold. It was a good day, Laurel decided as she gathered up her things and left her dingy rooms for the last time.

The elevator was out of service again. The hotness at the back of her neck made her curse as she headed for the emergency exit. Down, down she went, struggling to keep her purse strap from sliding off the smooth shoulder of her waterproof raincoat as she carried the neatly wrapped present in both hands. Fortunately, it was only two flights.

When she emerged, she found the usual malingerers infesting the lobby. Unbathed old men mostly, single and immune from the foul weather that seeped in whenever anyone entered the building. Could they be of some use? No. Too weak. Or drunk. There were plenty of other good candidates. Taking a last look at the forlorn, toothless denizens, she turned sharply and headed for the front desk to pay her bill.

“Sorry to see you go,” the man with the lopsided haircut said. “That’ll be four hundred even. Did you take anything out of the honor bar?”

“No.” She counted out four crisp one-hundred-dollar bills. “I don’t drink, and I don’t eat snacks.”

“Okay.” He handed her a receipt, along with a card with a website address on it. “If you wouldn’t mind, could you fill out a survey online? Even better, could you post a Yelp review?”

“Sure thing.”

She checked her watch. She still needed to get gas before heading to the office. The man at the front desk said goodbye, but she ignored him and walked briskly toward the door that led to the parking structure. She spotted an ashtray stand next to the doorway and deposited the card on top of a pile of yellowed, soggy butts.

One of Laurel’s tires was low. As she unlocked her car door, she hoped it wasn’t punctured. She would check it at the gas station. The heat radiating in her neck had transformed into a familiar dull throbbing at her temples as she placed the present on the passenger seat next to her purse and climbed in. Her bags were already in the trunk, along with everything else she needed. Nothing left to do now but get on the road.

It wasn’t long before she’d gassed up her car and checked the tire pressure. Nothing was wrong with the car. A woman dressed in active wear had just gotten into her vehicle as Laurel started to pull out. She shot in front of Laurel, causing her to slam on her brakes. The other woman stopped, too. Infuriated, Laurel got out and marched up to the driver’s side window.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said.

She tried to smile. But when she saw the strange, threatening look on Laurel’s face, she averted her eyes and reached for the switch to raise her window.

“You could get killed driving like that,” Laurel said in a voice that was not her own. Though she wore a smile, her expression was merciless.

“I… I didn’t mean to…”

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to harm you. You should be more careful.”

“Yes,” the other woman said in a meek voice.

“Have a nice day.”

As Laurel stepped back, the flustered woman put her car in gear and shot out of the gas station, barely missing a homeless man with a gimpy leg.

“We should all have a nice day,” Laurel said.


* * *


The day had gone surprisingly quickly, and Laurel looked forward to getting things underway. Her friend of six months was leaving the Catholic social services agency, Mary’s Gift, and they were going out to celebrate. Laurel had given her the present at lunch, a porcelain figure of a cocker spaniel. Her friend loved dogs but was allergic. If nothing else, the figurine had made her smile.

The plan was for Laurel to follow her friend to her house in Beacon Hill and drive the two of them to dinner. When they left a little after five, the sky was already black, and it was raining hard. Though it seemed to rain constantly in Seattle, people had never learned how to drive safely. There was always some idiot who thought he could speed down Pike Street toward the fish market. The unexpected steepness of the grade would get the best of him, and there would be the inevitable accident. Laurel planned to be extra careful.

“I’m starving,” her friend said as they got onto the I-90 toward Bellevue.

“Me, too.”

“I really appreciate you driving, Laurel. But did we really have to go so far for dinner?”

“It’s not that far. And I think you’re going to love the restaurant. So, what are your plans once you get to Phoenix?”

“I think I might take a few months off before looking for work.”

“I really will miss you, you know. But I understand. It’s this stupid weather.”

As if to underscore the remark, the sky lit up with tentacles of white crackling lightning. The inevitable thunder followed.

“Maybe I should go to Arizona, too,” Laurel said.

Her friend smiled. “That would be lovely. I was just getting to know you.”

Surprisingly, it took only fifteen minutes to get across the floating bridge. Laurel had already checked the directions and made her way easily to downtown Bellevue. On Bellevue Way NE, she spotted the restaurant and, luckily, found parking on the street.

“This place is beautiful,” her friend said as they entered.

“I knew you’d like it.”

Soon, they were seated. By the time her friend had returned from the restroom, their drinks were standing untouched on the table. Laurel raised her iced tea and toasted her friend, who had decided to treat herself to a martini since she wasn’t driving.

“I wish you all the happiness in the world,” Laurel said.

By the time the salads arrived, Laurel’s friend felt unwell. She thought she should go back to the restroom and splash cold water on her face. But when she tried standing, she became dizzy.

“Oh, dear,” Laurel said. “Was the martini too strong?”

“I feel so strange.”

A concerned restaurant manager came over. “Is there anything I can do?”

“My friend isn’t feeling well. Can you help me get her to our car?”

He and Laurel pulled the other woman to her feet.

“Oh, the bill,” Laurel said.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Thank you.”

Outside, the rain was coming down in sheets. Laurel and the manager helped the other woman into the car as a busboy held an impossibly large umbrella over the three of them. Laurel thanked them and drove off, peering through the windshield to find her way to the I-90 south. Blindly, she grabbed a fresh water bottle and handed it to her friend.

“Here, drink this. You’re probably dehydrated.”

“You’re such a good friend,” the woman said.


* * *


Within hours, Laurel had maneuvered her car down a treacherous dark road and found the small parking lot in Mt. Ranier National Park. The rain had abated; a good sign. She parked and looked over at her friend, who was unconscious. Turning around, she reached for her purse on the backseat and removed the martini glass she’d stolen from the restaurant. In all the confusion, no one had missed it.

She got out and stood facing the public restrooms. It was quiet except for the howl of a sharp wind through the trees, and bitterly cold. She would have to work quickly. She dropped the glass and crushed it with her foot, destroying all evidence of the Ambien she’d used to incapacitate the victim.

She opened the trunk. On top of her suitcases lay a folded plastic tarp and a coil of yellow nylon rope. Next to those were a neatly folded bundle of heavy clothing and a pair of waterproof hiking boots. She took out the tarp and the rope and laid them on the ground next to the car’s passenger side. Grabbing the clothes, she went into the restroom to change.

Taking her time, Laurel opened the passenger door and turned the unconscious woman until her back faced the door and hooked her arms under the other’s so she could drag her out. As she did so, the woman groaned. Laurel laid her on the tarp and tied it up at the feet. To make things easier for the short trip to the grave, she fashioned a noose and place it around the victim’s neck.

Now came the hard part. She would have to haul the body down the trail about a mile. She’d estimated it would take her less than an hour. Taking a quick look around her, she locked up the vehicle, draped the nylon rope over her shoulder and, like a logger, dragged the woman by the neck.

As she made her way slowly, she found that the tarp left a noticeable trail, as if some giant snake were slithering through the forest. She stopped and looked up at the sky. Clouds were moving in again. Soon it would rain, washing away all the evidence.

“Why, Laurel?” she thought she heard the woman say.

As she struggled over rocks, and mud that in places was inches thick, she decided to answer the imagined question. Why indeed. Because it was all part of the plan. His plan. And she’d been promised a great reward. To know the unknowable. To lord it over the vermin that were doing nothing more than occupying space.

To be like a god.

Laurel was sweating, despite the cold. Ignoring the vice-like pain in her head, she continued on. Soon.

Eventually, she saw it up ahead—a tree trunk, its top bent completely over and back into the earth, forming a huge upside-down U. Opposite that, she knew, was a hollow.

Stopping to catch her breath, she looked around her as if someone might be spying. She dragged the woman’s body up to the partially obscured entrance. Pausing to look at the sky, she climbed through, turned around, and pulled the body in the rest of the way.

She’d already dug the grave the previous night. The shovel lay where she’d left it. The hole was partially filled with rainwater. No matter. Only one thing left to do before disposing of the evidence. She picked up the shovel. Standing over the woman’s body, she unrolled the tarp, exposing the head. Livid rope burns circumscribed the aged neck. The victim’s eyes were bulging from a lack of oxygen. By all rights, she should be dead.

But she wasn’t.

Her eyes searched Laurel’s face for a shred of mercy. But there was none to be found.

“This is for the best,” Laurel said.

Straightening, she raised the shovel over her head and, grunting, brought it down hard on the woman’s head. Through a wet, crunching noise, she thought she heard the woman mewling like an injured animal. Reveling in the victim’s suffering, she repeated the action two more times. When she was sure her friend was dead, she went about burying the body.

As she emerged from the hollow, flushed with exertion and sweating under her heavy clothing, a wolf bayed somewhere far off. Everything was happening according to plan. Easy peasy.

Her work here was done.

Book Review—In the Dark

In the Dark Cover

When it comes to the mystery genre, Agatha Christie is still a force to be reckoned with. Joining the ranks of other authors,  creators of film and television projects have produced original works utilizing some of the same plots and devices as Dame Christie. A recent example is the movie ‘Knives Out.’ In the novel In the Dark, author Loreth Anne White has built a story on the plot of And Then There Were None. She even references the book.

But this story has been moved from a lonely island to the dark, treacherous wilds of Canada. Like Christie’s novel, someone has decided that a group of people needs to pay for their sins. And one by one, they are eliminated as they try to survive in an abandoned lodge in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, a search and rescue expert and a cop are trying to find the survivors. The weather is terrible, and the clues are few. Will they succeed before everyone is dead?

This was a fun read. And the world building was excellent—especially when the author describes navigating an unforgiving wilderness. If you enjoy mysteries with plenty of twists, I recommend In the Dark.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

A secluded mountain lodge. The perfect getaway. So remote no one will ever find you.

The promise of a luxury vacation at a secluded wilderness spa has brought together eight lucky guests. But nothing is what they were led to believe. As a fierce storm barrels down and all contact with the outside is cut off, the guests fear that it’s not a getaway. It’s a trap.

Each one has a secret. Each one has something to hide. And now, as darkness closes in, they all have something to fear—including one another.

Alerted to the vanished party of strangers, homicide cop Mason Deniaud and search and rescue expert Callie Sutton must brave the brutal elements of the mountains to find them. But even Mason and Callie have no idea how precious time is. Because the clock is ticking, and one by one, the guests of Forest Shadow Lodge are being hunted. For them, surviving becomes part of a diabolical game.

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December Highlights

Photo courtesy of Corry.

Happy Holidays!

Let the celebration begin! I hope you’re planning on spending time with family and friends this holiday season. Though my girls are grown, they never tire of eating great food and opening presents. Come to think of it, neither do I.


HSW Sneak Peek

I am getting close to publishing House of the Shrieking Woman, Book Two in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series. Currently, I am awaiting a draft from my copyeditor. Once that’s approved and proofed, it’s time for some reviews. In the meantime, I’ll be making the book available for preorder in early January. As with The Girl in the Mirror, I’ll be setting the preorder ebook price at 99 cents. Upon publication, the price goes up to $5.99. The cover reveal is coming soon, so stay tuned.

The Zombie Christmas Mug Is Back!

If you’re looking for something unique to give that zombie lover in your life, then check out this high-quality holiday mug. The tag line on the other side is “Feliz Navidead.” Catchy, right?

Recommended Reading

Ring Cover

I’m sure you’re familiar with ‘Ringu,’ that iconic Japanese horror film remade in English as ‘The Ring.’ But did you know the movie is based on Ring, a novel by the horror master Koji Suzuki? If you love the paranormal with some good old-fashioned revenge thrown in, then check out this book. You can read my review here.

Until next time. Peace and love.

Three Things I Learned from Ring

Ring Cover

Years ago, I watched Hideo Nakata’s ‘Ringu,’ the Japanese horror film that kicked off a successful series of terrifying ghost stories both in Japan and here in the US. But it was only recently that I had the opportunity to read the novel that started it all—Ring by Koji Suzuki. When I first saw the movie, I was unnerved by the image of that strange girl Sadako, her hair exposing one hideous eye, crawling out of the television set from a well into the living room. There was something demonic about her, and though the film lacks gore, her victims’ deaths from sudden cardiac arrest are frightening.

In reading the novel, I learned that, unlike ‘Ringu,’ the protagonist is the dogged investigative reporter Asakawa, who plays only a minor role in the film. The reporter is around thirty, with a wife and child he barely has time for. Courtesy of a cab driver, he stumbles into a mystery involving four teenagers, one of whom was his niece. They all died suddenly of cardiac arrest—on the same day and at the same time.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. Here are three things in particular I noticed.

Family Comes Second

Though Asakawa continually berates himself for not spending more time with his son, he nevertheless continues to work, coming home at all hours. He smokes and drinks too much and is an emotional wreck. There’s something in him that drives him to pursue stories of the occult. Despite the efforts of his hapless editor to reign him in after a previous fiasco, he takes on a new mystery—one that hits closer to home because of the reporter’s dead niece.

As Asakawa tracks down the whereabouts of the four teenagers before they died to uncover the truth, he frequently spends time away from home. It isn’t until the end of the movie that he realizes how much his family means to him. And that feeling leads him to one last terrible, desperate act.

Science and Superstition but Not Faith

Science plays a significant role in this story. Asakawa’s friend Ryuji has lots of great scientific explanations for the phenomena he and the reporter discover. But for all his theories, there seems to be an underlying current of superstition that lies deep in the Japanese character. You could imagine children being warned nightly about spooky ghosts and vengeful spirits—and demons.

But for all the talk about science and superstition, rarely is God ever mentioned. Ryuji comes close when he suggests that at the beginning of time, good and evil were the same—they were equal. But I don’t recall anyone in this story saying they needed to go to the local Buddhist temple to pray for help.

We Kill What We Don’t Understand

If you know anything about ‘Ringu,’ then you know Sadako is responsible for all the mayhem. In the movie, she was a girl; but in the novel, she is an adult and startlingly beautiful. And she has a deep hatred that takes the form of a video cassette from hell. If you watch it, you die a week later. But why should anyone want to visit this kind of evil on people they don’t even know? Because Sadako was abused, then murdered for who—and what—she was.

If Sadako and her mother had been treated well, then none of this horror would have happened. But her mother’s death, followed by Sadako’s, creates the equivalent of a deadly virus whose only purpose is to infect and spread. Perhaps the final lesson in this breathtaking novel is, treat others as you would yourself. Maybe then, you’ll live to a ripe old age.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

The Inspiration for the New Major Motion Picture RINGS

A mysterious videotape warns that the viewer will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. Exactly one week after watching the tape, four teenagers die one after another of heart failure.

Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece’s inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan Tokyo teeming with modern society’s fears to a rural Japan—a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic—haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape’s mystery before it’s too late—for everyone—assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip.

The success of Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring has led to manga, television and film adaptations in Japan, Korea, and the U.S.

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Three Things I Learned from Tom’s Midnight Garden

Toms Midnight Garden Cover

After reading this magical novel, my only regret is that I was unaware of it when I was a child. Tom’s Midnight Garden is filled with imagination. The author has infused Tom Long with the curiosity, impatience, and determination of youth. Though respectful to his aunt and uncle, who have graciously taken him into their home while his brother recovers from the measles, Tom is adventurous and refuses to spend summer as a quiet guest.

Upon finishing the book, three things occurred to me.

There’s No Real Bad Guy

As most children will tell you when recalling their favorite fairy tales, there’s always a bad guy. And that’s because the hero never starts off as a hero. He must discover in himself powers he never knew he had—usually by defeating his enemy. But in this story, Tom revels in a newly found freedom and sense of wonder by spending time in the garden with Hatty.

The closest this book comes to a bad guy is Hatty’s aunt. Though severe, she isn’t all that bad. After all, she’s provided a home for the girl and, despite her conviction that her sons come first, she is not a monster.

Time Can Be an Enemy or a Friend

The annoying grandfather clock that cannot seem to tell time properly provides the means by which Tom travels into the past to meet Hatty. Mostly, Tom uses this bit of sorcery to his advantage, visiting and revisiting his friend in different seasons. He even figures out how to have Hatty hide a pair of ice skates for him to find in his own time so that he can go ice skating with her in the past. Sheer brilliance!

But Time can also be an enemy of sorts. Tom cannot control it, nor can he determine when the adventure will end. And when it does, the boy is devastated. He wasn’t even able to say goodbye properly. The grandfather clock no longer permits him to go back, and he is left with only memories of Hatty at different ages, from girl to young woman.

Dreams Can Create Powerful Connections

Toward the end, when Tom is with Hatty, and she is all grown up, his brother magically appears and can see her, too. It’s because Tom has been writing daily to Peter about his adventures. And Peter’s imagination seems to be as vivid as his brother’s, thus transporting him into Hatty’s world.

Tom’s Midnight Garden is a must-read for adults and children alike. Every page is filled with warmth, with each character—major and minor—lovingly drawn. It is a coming-of-age story, with Tom gaining an early appreciation for life through the eyes of a lonely girl growing into a confident young woman. And finally, it’s a story of friendship, forged in a garden as timeless as imagination itself.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

Winner of the Carnegie Medal

From beloved author Philippa Pearce, this sixtieth-anniversary edition is the perfect way to share this transcendent story of friendship with a new generation of readers. Philip Pullman, bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, called Tom’s Midnight Garden “A perfect book.”

When Tom’s brother gets sick, he’s shipped off to spend what he’s sure will be a boring summer with his aunt and uncle in the country. But then Tom hears the old grandfather clock in the hall chime thirteen times, and he’s transported back to an old garden where he meets a young, lonely girl named Hatty.

Tom returns to the garden every night to have adventures with Hatty, who mysteriously grows a little older with each visit. As the summer comes to an end, Tom realizes he wants to stay in the garden with Hatty forever.

Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Tom’s Midnight Garden is a classic of children’s literature and a deeply satisfying time-travel mystery. This newly repackaged sixtieth-anniversary paperback is the perfect entrée for readers of all ages to the vivid world that The Guardian called “A modern classic.” Features new interior spot art by Jaime Zollars.

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