Gretel by Christopher Coleman

Gretel by Christopher Coleman, 350 pages, October 31st, 2015, Genre: Teen and Young Adult/Horror/Thriller and Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

As a little girl, my father told me bedtime stories. Among them was “Hansel and Gretel”. I always had questions, such as “Daddy, why did the witch want to feed the little boy sweets? How does she survive in a Gingerbread House in the Summer? Why did she want to eat the children? Why did the father let his mean old wife send his kids away? Did the kids get punished for killing her? How does a grown up fit into an oven anyway?” To which my father answered, “Time for sleep.” It was difficult to sleep after that one. Not because I was afraid of evil witches overfeeding me and eating me- that didn’t sound so bad. It was because I was worried if times were hard enough, my own father might one day get rid of me, too. Why else tell me such a tale?

I expected the modern day retelling would be horrifying and I wasn’t disappointed. Coleman must’ve asked some of the same questions I did, because in this rendition, there are finally some answers.

Aneka Morgan breaks down by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Desperate to avoid being caught in the life-threatening, cold elements after sunset, Aneka tries to find her way home through the woods. What she encounters there is harsher than any winter’s night. Imprisoned by an immortal, desperate, murderous hag, Aneka bides her time, hoping for a chance at escape, sensing that she’s only being well cared for and fed for some foul purpose. Meanwhile, back at home, her daughter Gretel is forced to mature more quickly in order to provide for her family in her mother’s absence. Gretel has given up on finding her mother, believing the worst has befallen her. Gretel develops from a dependant little girl into a strong, confident, capable young lady. Aneka’s young son Hansel relies ever more on his elder sister. Hansel and Gretel are both suspicious of their father’s nurse, who positions herself to become their step-mother. Why does the hag want to kill Aneka? Will she succeed? Will Gretel ever be reunited with her mother again? Who can Gretel trust- within her family and without?

The themes of this work are the same as in the classic tale: the meaning of the blood ties that bind family members to each other and deep betrayal. The plot forces the reader to confront dark moral questions. If you were dying, in pain, in distress, what would you sacrifice in order to turn back the clock? What would you give for a second chance? Could you resist temptation if the price was horrifyingly steep? For how long?

This is an engrossing read with an imaginative spin on the classic. I’d recommend this to fans of modernized fairy tales and dark fantasy. You can find it at Gretel.

Book Description:

Alone. Frightened. Captive. If you hear someone approaching, RUN. She is not there to help you.

There is an ancient evil in the Back Country, dormant for centuries but now hungry and lurking. When it sets its sights on an unsuspecting mother one routine morning along an isolated stretch of highway, a quiet farming family is suddenly thrust into a world of unspeakable terror, and a young girl must learn to be a hero.

Looking for the perfect Halloween read? Gretel is a gripping, spine-chilling, thrilling horror with twists and turns you won’t see coming.

Praise for GRETEL:

“Great Halloween season read! Love the retelling of a classic story.”

“I couldn’t help but think I was reading something from Stephen King (one of my favorite authors).

“One of the best books I’ve read! I couldn’t stop reading it till the END!!!”

“Wow! What a great twist to an old story!”

“Wow. Fabulous twist on a Grimm classic. Such well developed characters. And THREE heroines.”

“If you’ve read the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ and you think you know all there is to know about a girl and her brother abandoned in the forest by their father at the behest of an evil stepmother, think again. You simply have to read Gretel: Book One by Christopher Coleman.”

“Man oh man! A true horror story….not your old time Hansel and Gretel. No gingerbread house, no barred cages to be locked behind while the witch fattens you up. Nosiree bob. If you truly want to be scared out of your wits about what some people will do to others, read this book!”

“That fairy tale your parents used to read to you has changed and grown teeth, although author Christopher Coleman may have captured the feeling the Brothers Grimm originally intended us to feel.

“This book was really creepy. Very well written. Kept me on the edge of my seat. I would love to see this made into a movie.”

Gretel is a horror story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, afraid to turn off the lights and go to sleep. If you are looking for a suspenseful, creepy and spooky read that will leave you scared out of your wits, then Gretel is for you. You have been warned.

The complete Gretel Series includes:

Gretel (Gretel Book One)

Marlene’s Revenge (Gretel Book Two)

Hansel (Gretel Book Three)

About the Author:

Christopher Coleman lives in Maryland with his wife and two children. He received his degree in English Literature from the University of Maryland and has been writing professionally for over five years.


Interview with Jason Parent, author of “A Life Removed”

Today I’m excited to host Jason Parent, author of “A Life Removed”, on my blog. Thanks for agreeing to the interview!

Thanks for having me!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, there’s not much to tell. I’m an attorney by day and a writer by night, so yeah… I drink. I can also do a number of impersonations that only I find funny, usually brought on by said drinking.

Leigh: What were some of your literary influences growing up?

Tolkien and Poe, and a little later, King. But I guess it all really started with Dr. Seuss. I still love Green Eggs and Ham.

Leigh: What are some of your favorite films and TV shows?

Though I am not necessarily sure they are my absolute favorites, I definitely love these movies and have seen them more than all other films: Big Trouble in Little China, Better Off Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, The Thing, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Princess Bride. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do (with the exception of Preacher, Hap & Leonard, Legion, Rick & Morty, and The Walking Dead), it’s usually binge-watching a Netflix/BBC show (Luther, Wallander) or any show on HBO, Showtime or Starz. Dexter was one of my favorites.

Leigh: Will Detectives Marklin and Beaudette from this novel return in another one? Do you foresee a possible series?

The current plan is to bring them back for at least one more story. They have important roles to play in a universe I have been creating with several thrillers—their stories will stand alone, but they will have some interconnected facets that fans of my other books might appreciate, and particularly fans of Seeing Evil and its upcoming sequels.

Leigh: How much research did you have to do to be able to write the novel’s villain? Was there a real-life individual that inspired you to create this type of character?

My research for this villain was more geared toward religious cults, their charismatic leaders, and what psychology influences followers to join up. The Branch Davidians are referenced in passing in this book, though David Koresh was somewhat influential in the villain’s development, as was Charles Manson. But the biggest influence was Joshua Milton Blahyi.

Leigh: What other works have you written and where can readers find them?

Well, for those who liked A Life Removed, I have another crime thriller called Seeing Evil, also from Red Adept Publishing. It’s about a fourteen-year-old orphan boy who has visions of horrible crimes and the detective and semi-foster mother who tries to keep him and those he sees safe. I have several other novels, all mixing horror, suspense, thriller, science fiction, and dark humor to varying degrees, as well as several novellas and short stories and my own collection. My next release will be a more traditional horror novel called They Feed, due out from Sinister Grin in a month or two. Everything’s on Amazon and everywhere else books are sold online.

Leigh: What do you do to relax?

I read and write and love the beach. My idea of true relaxation is lounging on some tropical beach with a book or pen and paper in one hand and an umbrella drink with a name I won’t remember by the time I finish drinking it in the other.

Leigh: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Probably still doing what I’m doing: plugging away at the day job and trying to make a decent living as a writer. But, I’m open to suggestions.

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?




Amazon Author Page:


Thank you very much, Jason, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.



A Life Removed by Jason Parent

A Life Removed by Jason Parent, 284 pages, Red Adept Publishing LLC, May 23rd 2017, Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Police Procedurals. Warning: Contains Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

I was drawn to this story as it takes place in Fall River, Massachusetts, location of the infamous Lizzie Borden murders. I was hoping there might be some connection  between the killings in this story and the ones before, but there weren’t. The story takes place there coincidentally.

There are three main point of view characters: Detectives and partners Marklin and Beaudette, and Officer Aaron Pimental. The chapters shift between these characters. It becomes clear by halfway in who is responsible for the murders, how they’re doing it, and why. The villain and his motives are similar to many killers with his modus operandi. What’s different about this novel is that it takes a supernatural turn, with the ritual killings actually imparting improvements to those who perform them. The remainder of the book focuses on Aaron Pimental’s struggle with the killer and his struggle within himself.

I enjoyed the scenes with the detectives far more than the scenes with Pimental. Their characters were more likable and relatable. Aaron isn’t grateful his girlfriend landed him his job, he’s resentful as it makes him feel like less of a man. He compromises the investigation by telling everyone while drunk at a party about what the police know about the murders, all to get to feel important and big. Aaron hates himself, believes he’s a weak failure, and has no self confidence. His one redeeming moment is undone later in the book when his darker nature overrides everything else.

People who are lost, injured, hurting, or low on self-esteem are targeted and easily led astray. Wicked people claim they’re leading their followers to righteousness and use perverted logic to keep them on board. But their schemes lead to death and suffering. Wicked men often go unpunished, free to move on and start the cycle over again. It’s a hopeless circle repeated in every town the killer travels to. Aaron Pimental was a victim of such a villain, in the end becoming a villain himself. This book takes the reader to dark places in the human psyche.

Overall, I liked this novel. If you’re looking for a hero or a happy ending, this is not the book for you. If you enjoy a mixture of horror, thriller, and police procedural, you’ll like A Life Removed.

You can find this book at A Life Removed.

Book Description:

Detectives Bruce Marklin and Jocelyn Beaudette have put plenty of criminals behind bars. But a new terror is stalking their city. The killer’s violent crimes are ritualistic but seemingly indiscriminate. As the death toll rises, the detectives must track a murderer without motive. The next kill could be anyone… maybe even one of their own.

Officer Aaron Pimental sees no hope for himself or humanity. His girlfriend is pulling away, and his best friend has found religion. When Aaron is thrust into the heart of the investigation, he must choose who he will become, the hero or the villain.

If Aaron doesn’t decide soon, the choice will be made for him.

About the Author:

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Rhode Island.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he wanted a change, he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he’s back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that’s another story.

When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, and travel any place that will let him enter. And read and write, of course–he does that too sometimes.

Crone: A Scarlet St. James Novel by Maria Mayer

Eerie, Ominous!

Crone: A Scarlet St. James Novel by Maria Mayer, 478 pages, Archway Publishing, December 15th, 2015, Format: Kindle, Genre: Horror. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Those who go looking for trouble will most likely find it. In Crone, those who’ve gone looking for trouble reap what they’ve sown. The story deals with a recurring set of crimes in Michigan, a serial killer who returns every thirty years to murder several men, then disappear. So far, nobody has connected the crimes, much less discovered any clues as to the true nature of the killer. Over the course of the book, the slayings and events leading up to them are recounted in horrifying, spine-chilling detail.

The murders take place in 1954, 1984, and 2014, respectively. Although events from the 1954 killings are mentioned, the main focus flips between the events in 1984 and 2014. Men are toyed with, psychologically tormented, ripped apart slowly, and devoured; pawns in a deadly cosmic battle between an immortal, evil witch and her demonic lover and master. While the police have tried to solve the crimes in prior years, forensics was unheard of in the 1950’s and barely used in 1984. However, this time they have forensic evidence to help them solve the crimes. As the mortifying evidence develops, clue by clue, they can’t believe what it suggests. Enter Scarlet St. James- a Private Detective, contractor for the cops, devoted sister and aunt, and an intuitive warrior against unseen evil forces.

Eerie and ominous, I felt there was a good balance between frightening, creepy material and grim, graphic descriptions. The primary theme was good versus evil. Evil can never be truly defeated by good; but the reverse is also true. There is a cosmic interplay between forces that at times produces horrific events, at other times, the very things that make life worth living as a simple mortal being. We can’t completely defeat evil, but we can drive it back and shine the light. The plot gets right into the characters and action but doesn’t provide a hook. I felt the intention was to slowly build anticipation and a sense of horror.

The Unholy 5 were bad boys who became obsessed with the occult. Biting off more than they could chew, they met what they’d been seeking, realizing too late what they’d done. It was gratifying to see them get what they deserved. I identified most strongly with the title character. While not perfect, Scarlet has many admirable qualities. Devoted to her family, fiercely protective of her loved ones, and dedicated to doing the right thing regardless of how terrifying it would be, Scarlet St. James was a likeable and relatable character.

I liked reading Crone. I’m interested to see where Mayer takes this character and the series. As a lifelong fan of Stephen King, I could feel his influence in sections of Mayer’s writing. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series. I’d recommend this book to fans of the horror genre.

Find this book on Amazon at Crone: A Scarlet St. James Novel .