Category: paranormal


book review, paranormal, reading March 31, 2016


Hello everyone! I’m back after a break during which my sprogs have been off school for spring break. Mixed feelings, people, mixed feelings.

I want to jump right back into the swing of things with a review of a book I enjoyed while we traveled to and from Austin (which was great fun and included much people watching).

Woman in White is not my first time reading the work of Kristin Dearborn. I enjoyed her debut novel, Trinity, loved her story Sacrifice Island (my review of it here), and I’ve had the privilege of listening to her read “Spider Cheese” on a couple occasions. Woman in White  maintains Ms. Dearborn’s reputation for weaving an excellent tale.


(I hate spoilers.)

At the beginning of the story, we accompany poor Dennis to his girlfriend’s house in the backwater town of Rocky Rhodes, Maine. A blizzard rages as he makes his way along an isolated road and, to his surprise, finds a woman in the storm. He offers the silent (creepy) woman help, and it’s the last we hear from Dennis. Remaining is a great deal of blood, but it cannot be linked conclusively to Dennis… nor anyone else.

When big-city forensic scientists arrive in Rocky Rhodes for what they think will be an open-and-shut case, they’re shocked by what and who they don’t find.

What follows is a story bathed in blood, missing men, a startling lack of forensic evidence, and women determined to stop the disappearances. Three women from differing backgrounds come together to solve the mystery and, possibly, save their town.

This is a different take on the classic “white lady” urban legend. Unlike a typical ghost story, Dearborn’s woman is tangible, in very surprising ways. I was delighted to find that Dearborn upends the trope with something new and fresh.  Her characterization brings the residents of Rocky Rhodes alive, and gives them authentic struggles in the small-town atmosphere.

Dearborn describes the blizzard raging in Rocky Rhodes to perfection. There’s something so effective about a horror story set in the snow… it muffles normal sounds and makes communication and travel difficult. The blanketed town feels stifled and claustrophobic.

I particularly liked the forensic angle Dearborn adopted by rendering the evidence unusable. If a substantial amount of blood doesn’t seem to belong to anyone, not even the person to which it is assumed to belong, then the presence of the blood merely adds to the mystery. What’s going on when fatal amounts of blood are found at crime scenes, but no one knows who the blood belonged to? Good questions, and ones that the scientist side of me appreciated.

Highly recommended read.

You can find Woman in White here for your Kindle. More information about Woman in White is available at DarkFuse.

Find out about Kristin Dearborn at her website:





Theo… or Why I Love Zombies

deviance, genre fiction, Habeas Corpse, paranormal, writing life, zombies January 24, 2014

I’ve had some fun questions from readers about Theo… where the idea came from and how I got the zombie thing under my skin. I’m a mystery writer at heart, really, so the crime fiction angle comes from my science roots and years of snitching my father’s true crime books. My love of zombies is something else, and relaying this requires a look at religion, at pop culture, and my very favorite of all subjects to study… DEVIANCE.

magic-island-photo-2bFirst and foremost, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of zombies. I’m sure this comes from studying religions and the social implications of religion in general. It’s incredible to me that someone can be so immersed in a religious belief that the power of suggestion alone is enough to make them believe another human being has control of them. I’m planning another blog post on the Haitian zombie phenomena so I won’t go into detail about it, but to carry that kind of faith is both amazing and terrifying.

I took a class in college called “Deviance and Social Control.” We studied some subversive cultures like motorcycle gangs and religious cults, and the differences in how one defines deviance both within and without these subcultures. Fascinating stuff. In my own teaching module on deviance in popular fiction, I offer up the idea that in order to truly build a society in fiction, a writer has to study what their society considers deviant. When I took a look at the Haitian voodoo model, the zombie myth really stands out as deviant.

So within this subculture (Haitian, and to some extent, Creole, voodoo) we have another smaller section of believers who include zombies, botGilgameshCover420h the existence of and the act of transforming others into slaves. Western culture considers voodoo to be deviant (this definition of deviant does not necessarily mean wrong, but rather simply violating agreed-upon social norms), and the zombie is even a step further. So combine my love of religious study and deviance and BAM! There’s the zombie.

Popular culture has long been fascinated with zombies, and the first well-known Western example of this is obviously in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. But there are references to flesh-eating dead as far back as in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Our fascination with zombies in one form or another has been around for centuries.

And while deviance can take many, many forms, is there really anything more deviant than the dead rising to consume the living? NO FREAKING WAY.

I love what pop culture has done with the zombie recently, with a few notable exceptions. I love The Walking Dead, both the TV show and the graphic novel. I love Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. I love Joe McKinney’s Dead City and Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin. Wonderful stories with tension and danger. But I also love the Haitian zombie, the one under someone else’s control, used as a slave. Theo was born from my love of the zombies of Voudon. Theo’s under the strict control of societal expectations. He wants to be deviant, all the zombies in Habeas Corpse do, but society controls them as surely as the voudon master controls her minions.

Book review: Sacrifice Island

book review, genre fiction, paranormal, reading, Uncategorized January 21, 2014

Happy New Year intrepid readers! I hope the holidays treated everyone well and you all began 2014 refreshed and ready to go!


Me, neither. The holidays tend to drain me… so busy and too much food.

2013 was such a weird year… many good things happened for me (short story and novel release, conventions galore), some bad (I crashed my motorcycle), and it was difficult to watch a few close friends go through some really painful times. I can’t decide if it was a wonderful year or just one that will go down as a strange year. Either way, it’s one for the record books.

So onward and upward!

Let’s start this year right with a review and a recommendation. Sacrifice Island is a novella released last year by Kristin Dearborn.

sacrifice-island This novella takes a monster of myth from the Philippines and turns it into something new. A duo of paranormal investigators heads to a tropical island to write the next chapter in their book on haunted locations. They’re out to uncover a mystery left behind in the diary of a young woman driven to suicide. They get more than they expect.

Jemma’s character grabbed me first. The reader learns early in the story that something’s not quite right with Jemma, but I couldn’t tell exactly what or where it would lead. I was intrigued with Jemma… she’s very cold despite the friendliness of her companion, Alex.

Jemma certainly grabbed me, but it was the setting that kept me reading. Dearborn uses vivid descriptions and lots of detail to really make the island stand out. I know she visited the area, and her familiarity with the tropical setting shows.

Once the investigators reach the island, there’s a lovely slow burn to the climax. Dearborn builds the suspense subtly and the puzzle of what’s happening on the island is in the forefront. Can Jemma and Alex find out what happened to the writer of the diary before the island claims another victim?

I give Sacrifice Island five stars for the intriguing characters, the lush setting, and the awesome monster.

Book Review: Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria Laurie

book review, genre fiction, paranormal October 5, 2011

Abby Cooper is a psychic intuitive living in the suburbs of Detroit. She “reads” for people for a living. When one of her clients ends up dead, she ends up on the run from a killer.

Victoria Laurie is, herself, a professional clarivoyant. As stated in her author blurb, she drew upon her own experiences to create the character of Abby Cooper. Abby is a likable character, flawed, but positive and intelligent. She is drawn into the police investigation of her client’s death quite by accident– she winds up on a blind date when too many margaritas loosen her tongue and she tells her date that she is a psychic intuitive. Her date is a cop.  Whoops.

The storyline was entertaining, the characters were likable and the setting very realistic. Just a few issues I noted…

I found myself with a ballpoint pen, circling all the adverbs. And there were a lot of them. Laurie has a clear penchant for the words “suddenly” and “finally.” I did feel like she used adverbs at the expense of telling instead of showing.

We didn’t see the main plot until page 101. The protag is confronted with a murder in the beginning, that the reader is led to believe will begin the plot, but the first murder actually has nothing to do with the plot. That felt like a betrayal.

There were several points in the book when I wanted to see something. For example, at one point the protag says “…and for the hundredth time that week I felt myself looking around anxiously. This had been happening to me since Monday.” There are a lot of details, mundane details, in this novel, and I could not figure out why, when we moved through that time with the character we weren’t given any inkling that she was looking about anxiously. If the author wanted the anxiety included, she could have gone back through the novel and inserted a few moments. Anxiety and a feeling of being followed strikes me as important to the reading experience and setting up the sense of urgency.


My other major problem with the story is that the killer was not introduced in the beginning, or at least before s/he’s unveiled as the killer. There is no possible way for the reader to follow along and guess who the killer may have been. The reader can insinuate certain circumstances, but we find out about the victim’s past late in the novel, and it comes as a complete surprise. I wanted the killer to be someone I could have identified. We don’t know this killer until s/he’s attacking our protag. This was the ultimate betrayal for the mystery reader who likes to “play along.”

Despite these issues, I very much enjoyed the details about how her gift of clairvoyance worked and the details in setting. Abby Cooper is a likable character that I enjoyed reading about, and I’ll probably pick up the other books in the series.

Book Review: The Killing Room, John Manning

book review, genre fiction, mixed genre, paranormal, poor editing, writing life, writing peeves November 15, 2010

Okay, here’s my new attempt at blogging! I’m shooting for three times a week. Someone poke me if I’m not back on Wednesday. Monday will be book review day. This is good for me, since it will prompt me to read at least one book per week. Sometimes that’s hard because I’m balancing school with kids with house with pets with husband with life… but it’s important for a writer to also be a reader.

Anyway, I finished my assignment for my Writing About Popular Fiction class and went looking for something to read. I ended up in the sunroom with the cat on my lap. This book happened to be within reach, so I grabbed it. Can’t make the cat move.

On to my  review of The Killing Room by John Manning.

A friend loaned me this book, so I’m not sure where it was shelved in the bookstore. Horror? Nah. Nystery? Not really. Thriller? Maybe.

Premise: a generations-old family curse is killing off the Youngs. Once every ten years they must meet for a reunion at the family estate in Maine. One person, whose name is chosen from a lottery, must spend the night in a basement room. Only one family member has ever lived the night, and she’s catatonic. Howard Young, the family patriarch at 98 years old, has hired a former FBI agent, a specialist in paranormal cases, to break the curse once and for all. Carolyn Cartwright arrives at the Young estate skeptical, but ready to do business. Many factors come into play here, including Carolyn’s own tormented past, family secrets, greed, and pride.

So what exactly is this book? The mystery of the killing room is a good one, but the details of what happen in the room remain a little fuzzy throughout the book. The answer is revealed in the end and a resolution is found. There are some elements of horror, including a little gore and some violence. The mix of mystery and horror may classify this as a thriller, but I’m not convinced. There is also a romantic element, but it’s sweet, not edgy, and does not lend itself to the thriller classification. I expect more tension from a thriller or a horror, and if there’s a romantic element in either of those genres, it’d better be incredibly tense with some amazing sex. Not here.

One issue I have with paranormal elements is that they remain consistent. If a writer introduces a paranormal element, like ghosts, then the other paranormal elements have to fit in with that “genre” of paranormal, or there better be a really good excuse as to why it’s something different. This novel (and this might be a bit of a spoiler, so stop reading now if you don’t want to know more) uses ghosts/malicious spirits as the main type of paranormal and then brings in a zombie. If there was a good reason for the zombie to make an entrance, I might have bought it. But in this novel it feels like the author ran out of ideas and brought in an element just for the scare factor. The zombie yanked me right out of the story and I threw my hands up.

I was sorely disappointed by the amateurish writing style.
“Inside the linen closet Ryan slowly lowered his hands from his ears.The house had fallen eerily quiet. The screaming and crashing and the gunshots had stopped. When the commotion had begun, Ryan had looked over the bannister into the foyer below and seen a scar-faced man on Douglas’s back raising a knife. Without even a moment’s hesitation, Ryan had turned on his heel and run down the hall, scurrying into the nearest hiding space he could find. For the next hour– or had it been less than that?– he had kept as still in the closet as possible, his hands clamped over his ears to drown out the sounds of his family being murdered, one by one” (p. 322).

I count seven “hads” in that paragraph. Someone very wise once told me most “hads” can be eliminated from writing. This section is representative of the book, lots of grammar errors and typos, just things that the writer should know better than to do and things that an editor could catch.

I give this book a C. It’s a fun read and I like the idea of the family curse, but the ends were not neatly tied and the errors in writing and publishing really detract from the book.

Work cited:

Manning, John. The Killing Room. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2010.