Don’t Fear the Reaper by Michelle Muto

So… I’m pretty sure that I have shared my complete and utter book love for Don’t Fear the Reaper by Michelle Muto. Seriously- I think it was my favorite book of 2011.

And I have Michelle here today on my blog to give you a little taste of the yummy goodness that is that book.


Description: Grief-stricken by the murder of her twin, Keely Morrison is convinced suicide is her ticket to eternal peace and a chance to reunite with her sister. When Keely succeeds in taking her own life, she discovers death isn’t at all what she expected. Instead, she’s trapped in a netherworld on Earth and her only hope for reconnecting with her sister and navigating the afterlife is a bounty-hunting reaper and a sardonic, possibly unscrupulous, demon. But when the demon offers Keely her greatest temptation—revenge on her sister’s murderer—she must uncover his motives and determine who she can trust. Because, as Keely soon learns, both reaper and demon are keeping secrets and she fears the worst is true—that her every decision will change how, and with whom, she spends eternity.

First Chapter Teaser:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for they are with me.

I repeated my version of the psalm as I watched the ribbon of blood drift from my wrist. I’d hoped it would be a distraction—something to stop me from wondering what my sister’s dying thoughts had been. Exhaling slowly, I let the emptiness consume me.

Jordan had kept my secrets and I had kept hers. In the end, it came down to just one secret between us that took her life. Now, it would take mine. I should have said something, but nothing I said or did now could bring her back or make anyone understand what she meant to me.

Are you here, Jordan? Are you with me? Tell me about heaven…

 I told myself Jordan was gone, never coming back, but her memories continued to haunt me. I had no idea if there even was an afterlife. If God existed, I was convinced he had given up on me. Not once did I sense he’d heard a single one of my prayers. I wasn’t asking for the world—I only wanted to know if my sister was safe and at peace. What was so hard about that?

She should still be here. It wasn’t fair.

I’d been the difficult one—much more than Jordan. For a while, I’d even gotten into drugs. Mom and Dad had worried I’d get Jordan into drugs, too. But I wouldn’t. Not ever. Besides, that part of my life had been over long before Jordan’s death. A small gargoyle tattoo on my left shoulder was all that remained of my previous lifestyle.

Mom and Dad started treating me differently after Jordan’s funeral two months ago. She and I were twins, so I understood how hard it was for them to look at me and not see her. Sometimes, they wouldn’t look at me at all. Mom went to the psychiatrist, but no one asked if I needed to talk to someone about what happened. No one asked if I needed sleeping pills or antidepressants. Yeah, sure. Don’t give the former addict pills of any sort.

Not one person saw the all-consuming suffering that gnawed at my soul. Why couldn’t anyone see? Jordan had been more than my sister—she’d been my Samson, my strength. I would have done anything for her, and yet, I’d failed her. I wasn’t the one who’d killed her, but I might as well have been. How could I ever live with that? My heart had a stillness to it since her death.

I shall fear no evil.

 I couldn’t very well recite the first part of Psalm 23 because it said I shall not want, and I did want. I wanted to go back in time. I wanted my sister back. Clearly, goodness and mercy were never going to be part of my life ever again. In my mind, I saw myself walking through the iron gates of hell with demons cackling gleefully all around.

I didn’t want to die. Not really. I was just tired and didn’t know of another way to stop the pain. Doctors removed a bad appendix. Dentists pulled rotten teeth. What was I supposed to do when my very essence hurt, when the cancer I’d come to call depression made every decent memory agonizingly unbearable?

Before I’d gotten down to cutting my wrist (I managed to only cut one), I’d taken a few swigs of Dad’s tequila—the good kind he kept in the basement freezer. I’d used another swig or two to chase down the remainder of Mom’s sleeping pills in the event I failed to hit an artery or vein. Then I’d set the bottle on the ledge of the tub in case I needed further liquid encouragement. Instead of using a knife or a razor, I attached a cutting blade to my Dad’s Dremel. The Dremel was faster, I reasoned. More efficient.

It would have been easier to OD, I suppose. But I felt closer to my sister this way, to suffer as she’d suffered.

I recited the line from Psalms 23 again. It had become my personal mantra.

The words resonated in my parents’ oversized bathroom. I’d chosen theirs because the Jacuzzi tub was larger than the tub in the hall bathroom. Jordan and I used to take bubble baths together in this same tub when we were little.

Innocence felt like a lifetime ago. I searched the bathroom for bubble bath but came up short. Soap might have made the laceration hurt more so it was probably just as well. Besides, the crimson streaming from my wrist like watercolor on silk was oddly mesmerizing.

The loneliness inside proved unrelenting, and the line from the psalms made me feel better. I prayed for the agony inside me to stop. I argued with God. Pleaded. But after all was said and done, I just wanted the darkness to call me home.

I tried not to think of who would find my body or who’d read the note I’d left. I blamed myself not only for failing Jordan, but for failing my parents, too.

My lifeline to this existence continued to bleed out into the warm water. Killing myself had been harder than I’d imagined. I hadn’t anticipated the searing fire racing through my veins. I reached for the tequila with my good arm but couldn’t quite manage. Tears welled in my eyes.

Part of me foolishly felt Jordan was here. The other part feared she wasn’t.

Give me a sign, Sis. Just one.

 I imagined seeing my parents at my funeral—their gaunt faces, red-eyed and sleepless. How could I do this to them? Wasn’t the devastation of losing one child enough?

No. Stop. A voice in my head screamed. Don’t do this. Don’t. Please…

 I shifted my body, attempted to get my uncooperative legs under me. I could see the phone on my parents’ nightstand. I could make it that far. Had to. The voice was right. I didn’t want to do this. I felt disorientated, dizzy. Darkness crept along the edges of my vision. Focusing became difficult. A sweeping shadow of black caught my attention. Someone stood in the bathroom—not my sister. A man. Had I managed to call 911? I couldn’t remember getting out of the tub. And why’d I get back in? Did I use a towel?

Mom is going to be pissed when she sees the blood I’ve tracked all over the bedroom carpet. 

 “I’m sorry,” I told the man in black.

“It’s okay, Keely. Don’t be afraid.” Not my father’s voice. It was softer, with a hint of sorrow. Distant. Fleeting. Later, I’d feel embarrassed about this, but for now I was safe from the nothing I’d almost become. My teeth clattered from the chill. My eyelids fluttered in time with my breaths. The tub water had turned the color of port wine. The ribbons, the pretty, red watercolor ribbons were gone.

Dull gray clouded my sight.

A voice whispered to me, and my consciousness floated to the surface again.

“—okay, Keely.”

Cold. So cold.

 “I’m right here.”

There was no fear in me as the man bent forward, his face inches from mine. He was my father’s age, and yet strangely older. His eyes were so…blue, almost iridescent. The irises were rimmed in a fine line of black, and the creases etched at the corners reminded me of sunbeams as he gave me a weak smile. The oddly. Dressed. Paramedic. A warm hand reached into the water and cradled mine. My fingers clutched his. I sighed, feeling myself floating, drifting. Light—high and intense exploded before me. No! Too much. Too much! I shuddered and labored to catch my breath, but it wouldn’t come.

Finally, the comfort of darkness rose to greet me.

Where to buy/download sample chapters:

Connect with Michelle:

Awesome and spine-tingling, right?   She doesn’t promote suicide in this book- I just want to note that. In fact, she does the exact opposite, as the book progresses.  Keely realizes that the ramifications of her decision are far-reaching and affect many people besides herself.  But anyway.  This is an awesome book.  I highly recommend it.

Interview with Michelle “Awesomesauce” Muto

Hi everyone, so I posted a review yesterday of a fabulous book that I read and loved, Don’t Fear the Reaper by Michelle Muto.  And today, she is kind enough to join us for an interview.  Whoohoo!

Michelle, I think I told you that your book is probably my favorite of the year.  You somehow managed to make a very ugly topic beautiful and haunting.  How did you come up with the idea?

 I was having a really bad day querying another novel, The Book of Lost Souls. I had three rejections in my in box that said that while I was a talented writer, they were seeking something a little darker. So, I couldn’t think of anything darker than having my MC commit suicide on page one and the rest is history.

For those who haven’t read it (and I highly recommend that you folks go right out and buy it.  It’s incredible!), can you give us your elevator pitch?

 Grief-stricken by the murder of her twin, Keely Morrison is convinced suicide is her ticket to eternal peace and a chance to reunite with her sister. Now, her only hope for reconnecting with her sister and navigating the afterlife is a bounty-hunting reaper and an unscrupulous demon. Keely must determine whom she can trust, because she fears the worst is true—that her every decision will change how, and with whom, she spends eternity.

 Okay, I’m going to stop right here and give you the first two paragraphs.  After you read them, there is noooooo way you’ll be able to resist downloading the rest of the book and reading it!

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for they are with me.

I repeated my version of the psalm as I watched the ribbon of blood drift from m y wrist.  I’d hoped it would be a distraction- something to stop me from wondering what my sister’s dying thoughts had been.  Exhaling slowly, I let the emptiness consume me.

Wow- intense, right?   Anyway… I digress….

Are you a plotter or a pantser?  Do you outline at all?  I’m personally a pantser and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants most of the time, but I’ve taken to jotting down a very skeletal outline, a chapter at a time.  I stray from it, usually, but I start out with one.  Do you?

 I’m now a plotter and I loosely outline. I find it’s helpful to get the 1st and secondary plot points out of the way. I use a program that has index cards, so I can step back and see plot holes or add notes for characters. At about each quarter, I reevaluate the outline and the story to see which one needs to change. Usually it’s both. If it’s the story, I make notes and keep writing. If it’s the outline, I modify it right then.

 Do you listen to music while you write?  If so, what did you listen to while you wrote this book?

 I don’t listen to music while I write. I’m all business then. But I do listen to music for inspiration while I clean the house or while I make notes/outline. Reaper has quite the apt playlist: Evanescence, Creed, Train, 3 Doors Down, Collective Soul, U2, Gerard McMann, Nickelback, The Beatles, Bob Seger, Pink Floyd, Sting, Meat Loaf, Melissa Etheridge, Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, and of course, Blue Oyster Cult. I’ve been meaning to put the play list on my blog for a while now. Soon, right?

 Is your version of the afterlife that you offered in the book the way you envision the afterlife to be? 

 In some ways, yes.

 What is your favorite book of all time?

 Only one? Wow. How about a whole series then? Harry Potter! Otherwise, I’d say Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

 Are you working on anything right now? 

 Far too many things, LOL! I’m writing the sequel to The Book of Lost Souls, but two other books keep trying to wriggle their way in. One is the sequel to Don’t Fear the Reaper, and the other is a really fantastic horror story I started, but haven’t finished. I either need another 48 hours in my day, or Hermoine Grainger’s time-turner. Maybe both.

 No way- I’ve got dibs on Hermione’s time turner!!  Okay—a couple fun questions:

Coffee or tea? Tea! I love loose-leaf teas. Most of them are black teas. I need the caffeine.

Beach or swimming pool? When given the choice, take both. I couldn’t decide, LOL!

Strawberry or banana? Stawberry.

Sean Connery or Roger Moore? Sean Connery.

Do you wear white after Labor Day? Only this one, old, ratty and comfortable sweatshirt while I write. It’s from Ocean City MD, and is from a place called the Brass Balls Saloon.

What CDs are in your car stereo right now?  None. All my music is either on my iPod or my iPhone, and both cars are mp3 player friendly.

 Where can people find you online? 

I LOVE new friends!

I’m on FB

Twitter (  )

My blog (  )

I’m also on Goodreads

Thank you so much for being here today, Michelle- and thank you for writing an amazing book.  You’re definitely an up-and-comer that I’ll be watching.  I can’t wait to see what else you write!  🙂

 Thanks SO much Courtney! I’m so glad no one can see me blush or watch me do the Snoopy Happy Dance. Thanks for making my whole day.

Review of: Don’t Fear the Reaper

So, Michelle Muto, an awesome author in our Paranormal Plumes Society, has an amazing book out right now called Don’t Fear the Reaper.  My TBR stack is amazingly tall… like teetering in the air, getting ready to fall over tall, but when I read the premise of this book, I was fascinated and put it at the top of the stack (carefully, so that I didn’t tip anything over….) 

Anyway, I sat down yesterday to read it– my plan was just to read for a few minutes and then clean for Thanksgiving– and I would read the rest later.  Um….it didn’t quite work out that way.  I didn’t get up until I had finished it (along with half a bag of chocolate chips).  It was the kind of book that you just don’t put down.  I’m really struggling with figuring out how to explain why this book is so good. I know that I can’t simply say “It just is” and you’ll take my word for it.  You want details, right?  

 Part of the draw for me is this author’s amazing writing style.  It’s dark and haunting, but beautiful and delicate even while dealing with a sensitive, ugly subject.  It certainly grabs you by the front of the shirt from the very first page and doesn’t let you go until you finish reading.  It takes a skilled author to do that. 

 I’ll tell you right now, the subject matter is a bit dark.  Keely, the main character, commits suicide in the first chapter. She is tortured by her twin sister’s murder and takes her own life.  But this author doesn’t glorify suicide or make it appear as a great ‘get out of jail free’ card.  Rather, she shows its ugliness, its hopelessness.  Keely is forced to come to terms with her death- and there isn’t a moment that she doesn’t regret her actions. 

Keely goes on to purgatory, where she works with her Reaper and a demon to find her sister in the afterlife and fulfill her purpose.  Muto’s take on the afterlife is fascinating and sucks you in with exquisite detail.  Can there be a Happily Ever After when a book starts with the main character’s suicide?  The answer is yes, when the author is skilled enough to make you actually like a demon, she is skilled enough to make the ending satisfying. 

I’m really hoping that there will be a sequel (and I just heard from Michelle that YES, there will be– sqeaaaaaalll), because folks, I’m just going to be honest.  I think this is my favorite book of 2011.  You should definitely read it.  I’m giving it five stars. I would give it more, if I could.  And as a special surprise, I will be interviewing Michelle tomorrow.  Yaaayyy!!  See you then!!