Book Review—Lost Hills

I don’t read a lot of crime fiction. I’m more of a horror and supernatural aficionado. But recently, I had the pleasure of picking up Lost Hills, a new novel by Lee Goldberg. This book is the first in a series featuring a young—and already hard-boiled—homicide detective named Eve Ronin. Now, if you’re up on Japanese history, you’ll know that ronin refers to a samurai warrior without a master or lord, In other words, a drifter. I wouldn’t say Eve wanders, but she positively does not react well to being bossed around by her superiors. This quality both serves and hurts her—a classic trait in a protagonist.

My favorite aspect of this novel is that it takes place in Los Angeles, my hometown. It’s clear the author knows this place intimately, and it was easy for me to picture where something took place whenever he called out street names and neighborhoods. It was almost like being on a ride-along with Eve and her sardonic, donut-eating partner Duncan.

I’ll warn you that things get bloody pretty fast. But the interactions between the cops in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and their counterparts in LAPD are sometimes hilarious, not to mention contentious. That, and the constant crap Eve has to take from men who consider her a skirt that didn’t deserve to get promoted to detective makes for some fun reading.

If you like crime stories with unpredictable characters and plenty of twists and turns, then do yourself a favor and get this book. And while you’re at it, treat yourself to a nice glazed donut.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

Lost Hills is Lee Goldberg at his best. Inspired by the real-world grit and glitz of LA County crime, this book takes no prisoners. And neither does Eve Ronin. Take a ride with her and you’ll find yourself with a heroine for the ages. And you’ll be left hoping for more.” —Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Thrills and chills! Lost Hills is the perfect combination of action and suspense, not to mention Eve Ronin is one of the best new female characters in ages. You will race through the pages!” —Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

A video of Deputy Eve Ronin’s off-duty arrest of an abusive movie star goes viral, turning her into a popular hero at a time when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is plagued by scandal. The sheriff, desperate for more positive press, makes Eve the youngest female homicide detective in the department’s history.

Now Eve, with a lot to learn and resented by her colleagues, has to justify her new badge. Her chance comes when she and her burned-out, soon-to-retire partner are called to the blood-splattered home of a missing single mother and her two kids. The horrific carnage screams multiple murder—but there are no corpses.

Eve has to rely on her instincts and tenacity to find the bodies and capture the vicious killer, all while battling her own insecurities and mounting pressure from the media, her bosses, and the bereaved family. It’s a deadly ordeal that will either prove her skills…or totally destroy her.

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January 2020 Highlights and Preorder News

2020-01 Newsletter
Courtesy of Wendy

Okay, so most of California doesn’t really look like this. But, come on, it’s winter. So much is going on—let’s get started.

Writing

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.

Book 2, House of the Shrieking Woman, is finished and will be published February 1st. Keep reading to see how you can preorder your copy for 99 cents.

Preorder Now and Save!

House of the Shrieking Woman Cover (3D M)

House of the Shrieking Woman, Book 2 in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series, is scheduled for publication on February 1st, 2020. The ebook price is $5.99. But you can preorder your copy now and save $5.00!

Book Description

Evil is as evil does.

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.

Recommended Reading

Between Life and Death Cover

If you enjoy zombie fiction, check out Between Life and Death by Ann Christy. It’s an interesting take on the genre, focusing more on a girl’s loneliness and isolation in a post-apocalyptic world. You can read my review here.

Well, that’s about it. See you in February, when I’ll be wearing my heart on my sleeve. Peace and love.

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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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.

Writing

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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November Highlights

Gather by Duchess Flux
Photo courtesy of Duchess Flux

Well, we’re in holidays. Are you looking forward to eating some fabulous holiday food as much as me? I’ve already lost ten pounds so I can gain it all back—and more. Yeah, the holidays.

Writing

Currently, I am doing rewrites on Book Two in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series per notes from my editor. I hope to send the manuscript to the copyeditor by Thanksgiving. I had planned on having the book out by Christmas, but I think January is more likely.

In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of the cover for House of the Shrieking Woman. Let me know what you think.

HSW Sneak Peek

Events

The book signing in Burbank went pretty well. I am in the middle of trying to schedule future ones, and I am now expanding to Vroman’s Bookstore. Be sure to check out my Facebook page for news on future events.

Recommended Reading and Viewing

The Little Stranger Cover

If you’re looking for something creepy that isn’t exactly a ghost story, be sure to check out The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It’s a wonderfully written novel about a stately home infested with an evil you cannot quite put a name to. You can read my review here.

Ringu Cover

And if, like me, you are a fan of J-horror, check out the Ringu collection on Blu-ray, available now at Amazon. I’ve been waiting for these movies to be available again, and now they are. Each is presented in Japanese with English subtitles. Prepare to be terrified.

Until next time…

Book Review—Reprobation

Book Review—Reprobation Twitter Post

There are a lot of crime thrillers out there about cops and serial killers. The ones I find the most fascinating are those that take place in worlds I am unfamiliar with. In the case of Reprobation by Catherine Fearns, the setting is present-day Liverpool, England. And to shake things up even more, the author has added a Calvinist nun into the mix.

Admittedly, I knew next to nothing about Calvinism when I cracked open this book. The substance of this Protestant faith, which began in the sixteenth century, is centered on the idea of predestination; that is, some of us are born to go to heaven and others to the eternal fires of hell. No matter how you choose to live your life, God has already decided. Taken to the extreme, you could rob banks for a living but, if you are one of “the elect,” you are still going to heaven, no questions asked. But there’s a problem.

No one actually knows who will and who won’t be saved.

Someone out there, though, might be trying to find the answer. Unfortunately, their quest requires murdering people. And it’s up to DI Darren Swift, nun and lecturer Dr. Helen Hope, and a troubled Norwegian death metal musician to discover the truth, possibly at their peril. For Helen, what she finds along the way will test her already tenuous faith. Reprobation is a gripping thriller, one that may cause you to question your own beliefs in God, destiny, and what it means to be human.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

Are you one of the elect?

Dr. Helen Hope is a lecturer in eschatology – the study of death, judgement, and the destiny of humankind. She is also a Calvinist nun, her life devoted to atoning for a secret crime.

When a body is found crucified on a Liverpool beach, she forms an unlikely alliance with suspect Mikko Kristensen, lead guitarist in death metal band Total Depravity. Together, they go on the trail of a rogue geneticist who they believe holds the key – not just to the murder, but to something much darker.

Also on the trail is cynical Scouse detective Darren Swift. In his first murder case, he must confront his own lack of faith as a series of horrific crimes drag the city of two cathedrals to the gates of hell.

Science meets religious belief in this gripping murder mystery.

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Three Things I Learned from The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger Cover

The first thing I’ll say about The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is, if you’re looking for a straight-up ghost story, this isn’t the book for you. If on the other hand, you’re in the mood for a wonderfully written novel about a stately home infested with an evil you cannot quite put a name to, then, by all means, grab the book.

As readers, we come in with expectations. And I’m no different. I was expecting a ghost story. But making my way through Dr. Faraday’s narrative as he told of a house taking a terrible toll on the family living there, I came to appreciate the author’s approach. There are three things in particular I admire.

There Are Many Sources of Evil

Usually, stories of the paranormal have at their heart a ghostly presence that is typically vengeful, or they involve a demonic entity. What Sarah Waters has done is to introduce another kind of evil—something unnamed and possibly born from a person’s emotions—hate and envy, for example.

Make no mistake, though. Such a thing comes into being just as deadly. And those emotions embodied in an invisible entity can kill or, at best, drive a person mad. Unfortunately, at least one of the family suffers the latter fate.

Medicine Can’t Cure Everything

When Faraday decides to help the Ayres family, he applies everything he knows about medicine and science. He is diligent and caring. And he’s lonely. Just as there are things in Hundreds Hall he cannot cure—as much as he wants to—there are things in himself he cannot confront. And perhaps, the melding of these two poignant truths bring together the greatest tragedy.

In the End, It All Comes Down to Class

The Little Stranger is very much about post-war England and about how the well-to-do families of the former empire are no longer able to sustain themselves. Collectively, their wealth had been chipped away for a long time, much as their land was, with, as in the case of the Ayres family, vast tracts being converted to affordable housing for the masses.

Faraday is keenly aware of his station. His mother was a maid in Hundreds Hall and, even though he carries the title of Doctor, he doesn’t feel he commands the respect he deserves. Added to that, the National Health Service is coming, potentially eroding his income and position even further.

Everything in England is changing. And perhaps, Hundreds Hall is meant to disintegrate, along with a privileged way of life. Don’t expect answers from this book. In the end, there are only more questions. And you may be mulling them over for a long time after.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description

“The #1 book of 2009…Several sleepless nights are guaranteed.”—Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly

One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

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