Book Review—Forgotten Bones

Forgotten Bones Cover 

Forgotten Bones is a ghost thriller with heart. Vivian Barz has created characters that resonate wonderfully and, like any accomplished author, puts them in the center of hell in the guise of a remote farming community in California.

The double protagonist is comprised of Susan, the ambitious young cop, and Eric, an emotionally broken academic. Of the two, I found Eric to be more interesting. He is newly arrived after a painful separation and also happens to be schizophrenic. Together, these two give the reader something new and fresh as they attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the decades-old death of a boy found buried in a shallow grave.

Of course, in stories like this, there is never just one body. And as the count rises and the FBI becomes more involved, Susan finds herself getting frustrated since it appears she is being shut out. And Eric. He would be thrilled to leave everything to the police if it weren’t for the fact that the ghost of that strange boy is plaguing him. Or is it that he’s going crazy?

For those who enjoy police procedurals, ghosts, fear, and surprise, this book is for you.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
An unlikely pair teams up to investigate a brutal murder in a haunting thriller that walks the line between reality and impossibility.

When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted criminal who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started.

Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in.

Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?

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Three Things I Learned from ‘The Rite’

The Rite Poster

The Rite’ is a wonderfully produced movie from 2011 starring Anthony Hopkins, perhaps the only actor alive today who could drop you simply by leveling his trademarked death-stare. I saw the film a few years ago, then recently read the nonfiction book that has to do with real-life exorcist Father Gary Thomas. In that work, the journalist Matt Baglio faithfully records what happens to the Northern California priest as he attends a series of exorcisms in Italy as part of his training. If you are interested in what happens during these rituals, I suggest you take a look at that book.

But I’m here to talk about the movie, which was suggested by the book. After watching it again, three things struck me that I’d like to share.

There’s Plenty of Evil in the World
When the main character, Michael Kovak, first meets Father Lucas, the exorcist he is to observe, he encounters a young woman who has been suffering from demonic possession for a long time. It turns out her predicament is not her fault. She was raped by her father and is now carrying his child.

We read about stuff like this all the time, and what it demonstrates is, as humans, we don’t need demons making us do bad things; we are perfectly capable of being evil all by ourselves. Nevertheless, when a tragedy like this occurs, it can open the door to something even worse. As proof, you can check out the scene where the poor girl coughs up black oxide nails.

Demons Are Real—and They Have Names
In 1973, ‘The Exorcist’ showed us that demonic possession is real and that the entities doing the possessing have names. Apparently, they also have ranks. Now, as a reminder, these creatures are pure spirit; that is, they never walked the earth, and they are as old as time itself. They’re also smart, so good luck engaging in wordplay with them.

As a matter of fact, this is precisely what the young seminarian does against the priest’s orders—he tries parrying with the demon possessing the girl. Big mistake. As a result, the beast begins toying with him, getting under the young man’s skin.

Without Faith, You Are Lost
Here’s something interesting that was hinted at in the movie but is prominent in the book: many Catholic priests do not believe in the devil which, when you stop to think about it, is messed up. Have these people not read the New Testament? Anyway, just because these are modern times, that doesn’t mean the old truths don’t apply.

What’s interesting about Michael is, on the surface, it’s not so much about his lack of faith in God as it is about his refusal to believe in evil during these exorcisms. It’s almost as if it’s the demon’s mission is to prove to Michael that he exists. And of course, once the seminarian can accept that, he can then be confident in the belief that God exists.

Wrap-Up
I am a huge fan of this movie. I’ve said often that my all-time favorite horror movie is ‘The Exorcist.’ But this film is a close second. It’s intelligently written and beautifully acted and directed. And it doesn’t hurt that it was shot in Italy. If you enjoy horror that makes you think, watch ‘The Rite.’

Movie Details
American seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donaghue) travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.

Director: Mikael Håfström
Writers: Michael Petroni, Matt Baglio (book)
Stars: Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds

Tell Me When I’m Dead—Back to School Sale

TMWID Cover eBook Quote (Small)

 

Just a quick announcement to let you know that Tell Me When I’m Dead is on sale from August 13th through the 19th. So, if you love zombies and mayhem and haven’t yet read this novel, then now is your chance to get it on the cheap.

Normally, this book is $4.99, but during the sale, you can get it for a cool $1.99.

What Critics Are Saying
“The zombie genre has exploded in recent years, and unfortunately, so many similar stories have begun to run together, making it less of a desirable avenue for both writers and readers. However, there is still hope for this genre niche in the form of Tell Me When I’m Dead by Steven Ramirez. The first book in a trilogy, this slow-burning thriller does far more than simply promote an everyman into a zombie-killing hero, introducing readers to a uniquely compelling protagonist.” — Self-Publishing Review

“As Dave’s life slowly starts to unravel, and the body count continues to grow higher through the help of an unknown virus, he is left with a gruesome choice: either wallow in his sorrows or stay alive. In this thrilling novel, Ramirez details an antihero’s struggles for family and love, and to find beauty in a world ruled by the dead.” — Readers’ Favorite

“The sense of pace in Tell Me When I’m Dead is impressive, Ramirez building the suspense and stakes with skill, and ensuring that you care about the characters at the heart of events. As a lead character, Dave is layered, with a compelling backstory and an admirably drawn humanity. He’s not your run-of-the-mill horror hero, and his decisions are believable yet at times unexpected, keeping the reader on their toes and ensuring that this isn’t a predictable tale in the slightest. Chilling, pulse racing, and hugely compelling, Ramirez has brought something new to a popular genre.” — The Bookbag

Tell Me When I’m Dead—Time for the Free Stuff!

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I’ll make this short and sweet. I am giving away five paperback copies of Tell Me When I’m Dead (Second Edition). And all you have to do is visit my Facebook page. While you’re there, could you also give it a Like?

Enter now for a chance to win a copy of what Self-Publishing Review said is “a gritty, pulse-pounding read” and “an original and well-rounded work of zombie fiction.”

Good luck!

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Book Review—The Thinnest Air

The Thinnest Air Cover

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of fiction featuring female protagonists. And I was delighted to learn that The Thinnest Air by Minka Kent has two. Meredith and Greer couldn’t be more different. The former is beautiful and, to be truthful, a little ditzy. She’s not sure what she wants to do in life and, by some stroke of cosmic luck, has managed to marry a wealthy investment banker. Greer, on the other hand, is practical and focused—even hard. She’s looked after her sister since they were little and apparently has zero sense of humor, not to mention a talent for winding people up. Each, however, is strong in her way.

The book is organized into chapters that alternate between Meredith and Greer, which I found to be compelling as a storytelling device. By the midpoint, I actually found myself preferring Greer’s story to Meredith’s. Maybe it’s because the older sister is a no-nonsense kind of gal. Overall, this novel works as a fun, taut thriller. But I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in the ending, which I won’t reveal here. Suffice it to say that the author set up a path that needed to lead to its logical conclusion but retreated at the end. Nevertheless, fans of the genre will find the story entertaining and the characters appealing.

Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy a nice glass of Merlot and contemplate whether to name my next kid Isabeau.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
A woman’s disappearance exposes a life of secrets in a twisting novel of psychological suspense from the author of The Memory Watcher.

Meredith Price is the luckiest woman alive. Her husband, Andrew, is a charming and successful financial broker. She has two lovely stepchildren and is living in affluence in a mountain resort town. After three years of marriage, Meredith’s life has become predictable. Until the day she disappears.

Her car has been discovered in a grocery store parking lot—purse and phone undisturbed on the passenger seat, keys in the ignition, no sign of struggle, and no evidence of foul play. It’s as if she vanished into thin air.

It’s not like Meredith to simply abandon her loved ones. And no one in this town would have reason to harm her. When her desperate sister, Greer, arrives, she must face a disturbing question: What if no one really knows Meredith at all? For Greer, finding her sister isn’t going to be easy…because where she’s looking is going to get very, very dark.

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Tell Me When I’m Dead New Edition Cover Reveal

Forget world events for a second, people. The big question of the day is, what in the world have I been spending my time on for the past six months? Don’t worry, it’s good news. Late last year, I decided to create a second edition of my horror thriller trilogy, Tell Me When I’m Dead. That means updated chapters and (wait for it) new covers! Also, I am finally creating print versions of the books for those of you who prefer the feel of paper to an eReader.

I plan to release the books in July, but in the meantime, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at the new covers. I hope you love them as much as I do. Ready? Here goes.

Book One—Tell Me When I’m Dead

TMWID Cover Reveal

“As Dave’s life slowly starts to unravel, and the body count continues to grow higher through the help of an unknown virus, he is left with a gruesome choice: either wallow in his sorrows or stay alive. In this thrilling novel, Ramirez details an antihero’s struggles for family and love, and to find beauty in a world ruled by the dead.” — Readers’ Favorite

Thanks to Holly, a beautiful, strong-willed woman, recovering alcoholic Dave Pulaski is getting his life together. Then, a plague decimates the town, turning its victims into shrieking flesh-eaters who hunt the living. Now Dave, Holly, and a band of soldiers must kill the living and the dead to survive. But Dave is this close to drinking again. A woman he cheated with—and no longer human—is after him. The hordes of undead are growing, and the beleaguered security forces are far outnumbered. Hell has arrived in Tres Marias.

Book Two—Dead Is All You Get

DIAYG Cover Reveal

“Dead Is All You Get is cunningly plotted, and the author uses suspense to deepen the quality of horror as he creates scenes that make the reader feel like something could go wrong at any moment. A lot happens in this story, and the pacing is fast and the action intense. The writing is filled with enjoyable and engaging dialogue that enhances the reading experience of this gripping story. Great prose, sophisticated characters, and a very clever plot.” — Readers’ Favorite

After months of fighting the hordes of undead ravaging the town of Tres Marias, Dave Pulaski and his wife, Holly, catch a break when Black Dragon Security suddenly shows up to rescue them. But things are about to get worse. The virus is mutating, and the infected are getting smarter. Then, while struggling to protect Holly and those closest to him, Dave discovers the truth behind the contagion—a revelation that will drive him past the limits of faith and reason.

Book Three—Even The Dead Will Bleed

ETDWB Cover Reveal

“This action-packed zombie gore-fest is not for the faint of heart as carnage and rising body counts are described in stomach churning, gruesome detail, but at no point is character development sacrificed. There is a perfect balance of character growth and development, action, intrigue, and suspense that will keep the reader hooked from the first page to the ultimate conclusion. I’ve read my fair share of zombie style books, and this one certainly stands up there with the best. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, mass-produced, zombie book; rather, it is intricately designed, well executed, imaginative, and plausible.” — Readers’ Favorite

Dave Pulaski is headed to Los Angeles to kill Walt Freeman, the man responsible for the out-of-control human experiments that devastated his hometown of Tres Marias. But the mission goes sideways when Dave decides to rescue Sasha, a Russian girl who escaped Walt’s secret testing facility. Now, pursued by a ruthless, ex-military sociopath working for Walt and by scientifically engineered humans who flay their victims alive, chances are good that Dave will die before he can save the girl.

Book Review-Only the Rain

Only the Rain Cover

Some of my favorite stories revolve around people making wrong choices, then seeing the resulting mayhem play out. Perhaps one of the best examples is Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men—both the novel and the movie. Another is the iconic movie Fargo. And often, it’s greed that’s driving the hapless protagonist. That and a sense of entitlement.

Only the Rain is a thriller that falls into the category of sort-of-good-guy gets involved with the wrong people because he’s broke. And though the results aren’t as disastrous as McCarthy’s bloody novel, they certainly serve to teach a valuable lesson: When you see a drugged-out girl dancing in the rain, keep going.

I particularly loved the structure the author used to unravel this nail-biting tale—a series of emails from Russell to his former comrade-in-arms. I also appreciated the tender relationship between the protagonist and his aging father. All in all, this is a great read by an accomplished writer. If you like thrillers with a heart, you’ll love this book.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
When family man and war veteran Russell loses his job as a quarry worker, his life suddenly seems more like a waking nightmare than a chance to finally live the American dream. Facing bills, a new baby, and a bone-dry bank account, he’s got nothing left to lose. Russell comes to the rescue of a naked stranger dancing in the rain, and what was supposed to be a straightforward good deed turns into a spiral of danger. When Russell finds an enticing stash of money in the woman’s house, he knows the cash could be his only hope. Taking just a handful will save his family’s future.

His “victimless crime” seems to be anything but risky—until the criminals he robbed come looking for their dirty money. Russell’s ready to surrender it, but then his daughter gets sick…and he must choose between saving her or giving the devils their due. Someone’s going to pay. The question is, how much?

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Book Review-Marred

Marred Cover

As an author of horror thrillers, I’m no stranger to scenes of violence and mayhem. But—and I’m being honest here—the thought of writing a novel about a serial killer leaves me a little squeamish. I would imagine you would have to approach the subject with the same cold-bloodedness as your killer, unblinkingly laying out the carnage that both repulses and fascinates the reader. That kind of writing calls for a stiff drink, in my view.

But this is precisely what Sue Coletta has given us in Sage, a tortured survivor struggling with horrific memories while trying to be the loving wife to Niko, a homicide detective who has his own demons—not to mention a surly sidekick. And all of this set in a remote, beautiful town that, in any other universe, would seem tranquil.

What I like best about this author is, she knows she has a job to do and doesn’t shy away from everything that’s required to terrify the reader, at the same time creating a puzzle that requires some serious brain power. The writing is sharp, funny, and at times tender. Marred is a chilling read that will leave you wanting more, once you’ve caught your breath.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller begins tormenting Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

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Book Review—The Last Victim

[The Last Victim Cover]So, I’m swearing off Alaskan king crab and Baked Alaska now. In fact, I will most likely never take that Alaskan summer cruise I was planning. Why? Because I read The Last Victim. More specifically, I allowed Jordan Dane’s mad tale to get under my skin and into my nightmares. Yeah, really.

This is some seriously good writing. The author has presented a well-researched, imaginative story about an FBI profiler with a big problem—he can connect with the dead. Oh, great. I’ll bet he’s fun at parties. I mean, this guy’s got more baggage than a luggage cart at the Ritz Carlton. The book is well crafted and haunting in its ability to pull you into the mind of a serial killer and the hunter who is in pursuit. And, believe it or not, there’s still room for a little humor—gallows humor, maybe. But hey.

If you’re drawn to the gruesome while still demanding good plotting, believable characters, and plot twists coming at you at a breathtaking pace, then I suggest you pick up this novel. You won’t be sorry. But, like me, you might be hesitant to visit our forty-ninth state anytime soon.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description
When a young hunting guide from a remote island in Alaska is found brutally murdered, his naked body is discovered in the Cascade Mountains outside Seattle—the shocking pinnacle to a grisly Totem of body parts. Nathan Applewhite is the fourteenth victim of a cunning serial killer who targets and stalks young men.

With the body count escalating, FBI profiler Ryker Townsend and his specialized team investigate the gruesome crime scene. They find no reason for Nate to have mysteriously vanished from his isolated home in Alaska before he ended up in the hands of a sadist, who has been taunting Ryker and his team in a sinister game of ‘catch me if you can.’

But Townsend has a secret he won’t share with anyone—not even his own team—that sets him on the trail of a ruthless psychopath, alone. The intuitive FBI profiler is plagued by recurring nightmares—seen through Nate’s dead eyes—that slowly chips away at his mental stability. Is he burning out and losing his mind—becoming unfit for duty—or is the last victim reaching out to him from the grave?

Townsend sees horrific flashes of memory, imprinted on the retinas of a dead man, the last image Applewhite saw when he died. Ryker must piece together the fragments. Each nightmarish clue brings him closer to a killer who knows how to hide in plain sight and will see him coming, but when the dead man has the skills of a hunting guide, he has the perfect ally to track down a killer—the last victim.

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Book Review—The Death Of Me

[The Death Of Me Cover]I really liked this novel, but I have to be honest. DC Philip Harris drove me crazy. And maybe that’s the point. Take a guy who, let’s face it, is not the shiniest penny in the jar and throw every kind of roadblock in his path as he attempts to salvage what’s left of his career, and what do you have? Pure Grade A frustration, my friend. I mean, there were times when I wanted to scream at the guy to just grow a set. Then again, I was deeply impressed by his analytical skills and dogged determination, if not his wussy approach to those who taunt him—and there are plenty.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I am recommending this book. Simple. Because it’s so bloody well written. The fact that another author can make this author seethe with anger each time the stakes are raised is something I admire. Also, the writing is taut and the characters well developed. My only criticism is that Phil’s Catholic backstory could use some work. But hey, that’s me.

If you like dark characters, conspiracy, and political intrigue—not to mention a couple of nasty abductions—then you should read The Death Of Me. You won’t be disappointed.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Description
He watched. He studied. He planned.

Every detail meticulously organised. Every detail perfect. The basement was ready, now all he needed was the girl.

Grace Dalton was just fourteen years old when she was snatched from Greenwich Park on her way back from school. A beautiful, shy, but socially awkward girl, she would do anything to stay out of trouble and away from her bullies. Pressed for time and her tormentors blocking her usual route home, she makes a split second decision with catastrophic consequences.

After facing public humiliation from a previous investigation, Detective Constable Philip Harris once again finds himself under savage media scrutiny when he’s assigned to Grace’s case. Determined to find her and solve the case to gain back his credibility, his frustrations mount when he repeatedly finds himself hampered at every turn. With no other suspects and the case rapidly becoming cold, the finger of blame points to Tom, Grace’s father. Struggling to keep his personal resentment towards Tom away from the case and the press, DC Harris embarks on his own investigations to find who the real kidnapper is against the instructions from his superior officers. But when his digging leads him to a mysterious concealed road protected by impenetrable iron gates he soon realises his investigations have not only endangered himself, but also his family.

Pitched alone against a highly organised crime syndicate and not knowing which side his colleagues are on, he’s faced with some tough decisions. Either drop Grace’s case, declaring it cold and allowing Tom to take the fall, or embark on a highly dangerous quest for her safe return. Time’s running out, which will he choose?

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