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.

Where to Buy

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

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News Flash—‘Dark’ Is Not ‘Stranger Things’

Dark Poster
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Recently, I finished watching the new Netflix series, ‘Dark.’ Prior to its availability, though, I was reading headlines like these: Dark Review: Netflix’s German Answer To Stranger Things Is Appropriately Titled, And Far More Grim and Netflix’s Dark: Stranger Things meets The Killing in this supernatural Nordic noir, and to be honest, it kind of pissed me off. To be fair, the articles in question did a pretty good job of distinguishing between the two shows, but why compare them at all? Frankly, they have little to do with each other. Sure, both feature a forbidding forest and missing children. But where ‘Stranger Things’ is a mashup of ‘ET,’ ‘Stand By Me,’ and ‘Super-8,’ ‘Dark’ is a brooding meditation on Chernobyl, fate, and time travel.

So, what happens when you go with these kinds of attention-grabbing headlines? In my opinion, you create wrong expectations in the viewer’s mind. You know about expectations, right? Like when you sit down with your kids to watch the new Pixar movie, ‘Coco,’ at the local cinema and are greeted with a nearly thirty-minute short about some stupid buck-tooth snowman named Olaf. Yeah. Well, the press was bad. I think I heard there were riots in Mexico.

If by now you’re thinking of giving the show a try, let me offer a piece of advice. Switch the dialogue to German and add the English subtitles. I know, I know. Most people hate subtitles. But you will be in for a treat. Hearing the actors’ real voices as they navigate through this hell-on-earth is worth it and adds wonderfully to the tension. Trust me on this. Also, pay attention to the music. It’s spot-on.

I’ve found over the years that European storytelling is different from that of America. Europeans like to take their time letting things unfold. They’re more philosophical. They don’t shout, but rather speak in low, measured tones that convey an intensity that acts as a window into a person’s darkest secrets. And they like to minimalize the backstory, so you end up having to work hard to get to the bottom of a character rather than listening to some rube monologuing about what made them the way they are. Or worse, smarmy narration that attempts to put a bow on it all.

I will admit ‘Dark’ is not for everyone. But if you want to explore something different, give it a try. Why, you may even be tempted to get a taste of Nordic Noir a la ‘The Keeper of Lost Causes.’ And don’t get me wrong. I loved ‘Stranger Things’—well, the first season, anyway. All I’m saying is, ‘Dark’ truly stands on its own. It doesn’t need help from some other successful American series.

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Movie Review—‘Arrival’

[Arrival Poster]
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Arrival’ (2016)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (based on the story “Story of Your Life” written by)
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Paramount Pictures
PG-13
Log Line: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.

Boy, did I need to see this! 2016 was a tough year for many reasons, both generally and personally. It’s not often I watch a movie twice in a row, but after seeing ‘Arrival’ the first time the other night, I couldn’t wait to put it on again. I’ve always been a huge Amy Adams fan—two of my favorite movies of hers being ‘Enchanted’ and ‘Julie & Julia.’ She’s one of those rare actors who can exhibit both vulnerability and strength at the same time and break your heart in the process. And as a professor of linguistics trying to solve an impossible mystery, she is at the top of her game.

I won’t recount the story here—you can watch the trailer for that. But I will point out a few things I felt made this film—nominated for eight Academy Awards at the time of this writing—brilliant. First off, the writing. The story by Ted Chiang is filled with a profound sense of human longing—a longing to connect with something bigger. Many people interpret this as a search for God in our lives, and I happen to believe that. But I think, in general, people want to feel a part of something outside ourselves. Something that gives life meaning and us a purpose. The screenplay, based on that story, captures this feeling beautifully and reinforces it throughout so that by the time you arrive at the end, you can see.

The direction and cinematography were perfect for this kind of storytelling. Everything that happens is seen through Louise’s eyes, and we unravel the mystery with her. As if things weren’t difficult enough trying to decipher an alien language, she is always surrounded by strangers—army personnel and CIA operatives—whose purpose she can’t fathom and who seem to be in opposition to what she’s trying to accomplish. Inside the massive floating spacecraft, we lose our sense of direction. And the playing with time itself throughout is hypnotic.

Of course, any good movie has lots of conflict, which in this case is presented in the form of people’s paranoia about the aliens. The armies of the world all want to know what the aliens’ purpose is in coming here and, judging from their actions, they are all on a hair trigger. The director Denis Villeneuve captures this intense struggle with simplicity and clarity. And to balance things out—because not everyone in the military can be bad—we have the character of Colonel Weber, who is just trying to understand. Oh, and that soundtrack! Pay attention to the horns every time we see the aliens.

In the wrong hands, ‘Arrival’ could have turned into ‘Independence Day.’ Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed! No doubt, I will see it again.

You can find this review at IMDb. Now, check out this featurette.

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