Monday, January 31, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahony

Title: The Iron Witch

Author: Karen Mahony

Publisher: Random House

RRP: $18.95

ISBN: 9781864718270

Release Date: February 2011


Utterly enthralling. Karen Mahoney is a brilliant storyteller.’ Richelle Mead, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series



That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic, which branded her hands and arms with iron tattoos. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only

thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the vicious wood elves - the darkest outcasts of Faerie - abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries-old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend - even if it means betraying everything her parents fought to protect.


‘Dark and beautiful, sensual and dangerous, utterly enthralling. Karen Mahoney is a brilliant storyteller, blending magic and alchemy with bold, captivating characters who step right off the page and draw you into their world. You'll fall under this book's spell.’ Richelle Mead, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series

‘Mahoney's debut sizzles with romance and alchemical swashbuckling, but it's the steadfast character of Donna Underwood that kept me hooked. Her choices, her loyalty, her determination - all make for a refreshing and captivating read. The only problem with THE IRON WITCH is that the next book can't come fast enough.’ Tiffany Trent, author of IN THE SERPENT’S COILS


The Iron Witch is Karen Mahoney’s first novel, set in present day America and containing elements of alchemy and the fey. The book is targeted to the YA market and a mighty fine fantasy tale.

While set in modern day America, there are elves, faeries and the ancient arts.

The main character, Donna Underwood, has lost both her parents and somewhat an outcast, bearing iron tattoos, and having a rather high level or morals. We learn a lot about the characters and world created in this new series, which takes up most of this book. As with many series you need to set the scene, which is what Mahoney does well in The Iron Witch.

The next book will be a good read, with the background established and the reader introduced to the larger plot.

BOOK REVIEW: Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen

Title: Married With Zombies

Author: Jesse Petersen
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

RRP: $22.99

ISBN: 978184932977

Release Date: February 2011

Pages: 272


Meet Sarah and David. Sarah and David are like any other couple. They met, they fell in love, but now they're on the verge of divorce. On a routine trip to the marriage counsellor, they notice a few odd things -- the lack of cars on the road, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counsellor, Dr Kelly, is ripping out her previous client's throat.

Meet the zombies. Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But just because there are zombies, it doesn't mean you’re other problems go away. And if the zombies don't eat their brains, they might just kill each other


This isn’t your typical zombie apocalypse novel. This is a pretty light hearted story with a sense of humour, in other words it would be a zomcom if it were a movie. Married with Zombies is about an unhappily married couple, David and Sarah, who are on the verge of a divorce until something bigger interrupts; the global outbreak of zombie mayhem. I can see this novel being made into a movie with Ashton Kutcher as the David.

There were just so many things about this movie that would make it a great movie, such as the classic zombie kills. Move over Woody Harelson in Zombieland, in Married With Zombies we see David and Sarah dispatch zombies with a Dr Phil self-help book, letter opener and high-heel shoe.

By the end of the book the unhappy couple have worked out some of the issues that caused their near divorce and decide to stick it out. At least until the zombie apocalypse is over.

BOOK REVIEW: Dark Secrets 3 The Back Door of Midnight by Elizabeth Chandler

Title: Dark Secrets 3 The Back Door of Midnight

Author: Elizabeth Chandler

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

RRP: $16.99

ISBN: 9780857070340

Release Date: Jan 2011

Pages: 320


Anna O'Neill knows her family is a little crazy. But when she goes to visit her aunt and uncle for the summer and learns that her uncle's charred body has been found, her life reaches a new level of insanity. According to the local town gossip, all the O'Neill women are psychic or psychotic, and with her erratic aunt's 'psychic' abilities, exaggerated by grief, making her more unstable than ever, perhaps even dangerous, Anna is struggling to pick up the pieces and establish any sense of normality. Anna desperately wants to trust Zack, the cute boy next door, but it seems even he might know more than he's letting on.

But when Anna starts to feel an unexplainable pull to the site of her uncle's murder, she begins to believe that maybe her family's supernatural gifts are real after all. Torn between loyalty and suspicion, Anna is certain of only one thing; she must discover who killed her uncle before she ends up in ashes herself…


Dark Secrets 3: The Back Door of Midnight is the 3 book in the republished series but is actually the first book in the original Dark Secrets set of books. The previous 2 in the reprint contained 2 books each. The Back Door of Midnight is a YA paranormal murder mystery set in the same location of the previous books, Wisteria (no not Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives).

The main character, Anna O’Neill has psychic visions and goes about trying to solve the murder mystery of Uncle Will. There is a link between her Uncle’s murder and the murder of her mother years before.

There is an element of romance throughout the murder and mayhem as well, but that is not the main focus of this book.

A quick and satisfying read.

BOOK REVIEW: Blood Count by Robert Goddard

Title: Blood Count

Author: Robert Goddard

Publisher: Random House

RRP: $32.95

ISBN: 9780593065099

Release Date: 03/01/11


The breathtaking new race-against-the-clock thriller from the master of the triple cross


There’s no such thing as easy money. As surgeon Edward Hammond is about to find out. Thirteen years ago he performed a life saving operation on a Serbian gangster, Dragan Gazi. Gazi is now standing trial for war crimes in the international court in The Hague. After his life was saved, his men went on to slaughter thousands in the Balkan civil wars.

Now Gazi’s family want more from him: in exchange for keeping Hammond’s dirty little secret, they want him to find for them the man who holds the key to all the money Gazi squirreled away before he was locked up. But Italian financier, Marco Piravani, doesn’t want to be found, not by Hammond, not by anyone. No sooner has Hammond tracked him down, than Piravani has disappeared again.

His pursuit will take him first to the Hague, and then to Milan to find the Italian, and then finally back to the scene of his crime, Belgrade, where he must confront the decisions he once so easily took. Only then will he be able to lay the past to rest...


I had never heard of Robert Goddard before I read this book and was not sure what to expect. The blurb about the book sounded like the plot would be very thought provoking and interesting, which it was.

The plot is about a Serbian criminal, Dragan Gazi, who’s life is saved by a doctor. While this may sound normal, Gazi went on to organise the killing of thousands of civilians in the Balkan wars in the decade after his life was saved. With the guilt of saving this cold blooded killer, surgeon Edward Hammond is blackmailed into helping Gazi.

I found the characters to be well crafted and easy to feel a strong hatred to the gangster Gazi. It was difficult to feel any sort of sympathy for Hammond even though he was only doing his duty as a medical officer by saving Gazi’s life. Hard to think what you would do in the same situation, especially if you didn’t know who the patient was. But then to help the criminal later, that is the real question of character.

This book was very thought provoking and well paced.

BOOK REVIEW: Tick Tock by James Patterson

Title: Tick Tock

Author: James Patterson

Publisher: Random House

RRP: $32.95

ISBN: 978184605718

Release Date: 03/01/11


NYC’s no. 1 detective, Michael Bennett, has a huge problem – the Son of Sam, the Werewolf of Wisteria and the Mad Bomber are all back. The city has never been more terrified.


A bomb set in one of New York’s busiest places is discovered before it explodes. But relief turns to terror when the police realise it is just a warning of greater devastation to come. The city calls on Detective Michael Bennett, pulling him away from a seaside vacation with his ten adopted children and their beloved nanny, Mary Catherine – leaving his entire family open to attack.

Bennett enlists the help of a former colleague, FBI Agent Emily Parker. His affection for Emily grows into attraction and then something stronger, and his relationship with Mary Catherine takes an unexpected turn. Another horrifying crime leads Bennett to a shocking discovery that exposes the killer's pattern – and the earth-shattering enormity of his plan.


Tick Tock is the forth book in the Michael Bennett crime series, co-written with Michael Ledwidge. The first twenty eight chapters of this book were available free via Kindle late last year, which was an excellent marketing tool to get reader who haven’t read any Patterson books in for ths first time, and also make people want to buy the book to find out the ending after reading so much of the story already.

Tick Tock is written using two styles, both third person and first person. It is easy to see who wrote which chapter with the story distinctly broken down by the two styles. While the story is full of thrills and actions, it does lack the character depth due to the style. The reader is introduced to a multitude of characters, but never really given the time to get to know them in any details. Not sure if this is due to having two authors or two voices?

The plot revolves around New York detective Michael Bennett and his desperate attempts to track down a killer who has planted a bomb in the largest library in New York. With only two pages per chapter, the action flows quite rapidly.

If you are already a James Patterson fan then this book will be no surprise to you. Probably not the best book to start with if you haven’t read any of his work though due to the two voices which may distract some readers.

BOOK REVIEW: Daniel X: Demons and Druids by James Patterson

Title: Daniel X: Demons and Druids

Author: James Patterson

Publisher: Random House

RRP: $29.95

ISBN: 9780099543978

Release Date: 01/07/10


An exciting new novel in the Daniel X series set in England, past and present


The Alien Hunter is playing with fire … but who will get burned?

Daniel X’s hunt to eliminate each and every intergalactic criminal on Earth is always relentless, but this time it’s getting personal. Number Three on the List of Alien Outlaws takes the form of raging, soul-possessing fire. And fire transports Daniel back to the most traumatic event of his life – the horrifying murder of his parents.

In the face of his ‘kryptonite’, Daniel struggles with his extraordinary powers like never before, and more than ever is at stake: his best friends are in grave peril. The only way to save them is to travel back – through a hole in time ¬– to the demon’s arrival during the Dark Ages. There Daniel embarks on an ancient Arthurian crusade that takes him one terrifying step closer to the ‘Holy Grail’ of aliens: Number One on the List, his parents’ killer.


The Daniel X series is a YA series of books with a variety of new authors and co-written by the legendary James Patterson. How much is written by Patterson and how much by the co-author I’m not quite sure.

Demons and Druids is the third book in the Daniel X series. If you haven’t read the first two books then here’s a quick recap. Daniel X is an alien living on Earth, alone after his parents and sister were killed, he seeks to track down the criminals and extract revenge. To this means, he is working through the list of criminals his father gave him before dying.

Daniel has special powers that he constantly learns about as the series progresses, such as the ability to time travel and summon friends from his home world. His time travel powers come in handy in this book where his opponent is Beta, a fire demon, hell bent on incinerating the Earth. Daniel has some unexpected allies in his fight against Beta and his army.

Well written and easy to read novel aimed at the YA male market.

BOOK REVIEW: Operation Napoleon by Arnaldure Indridason

Title: Operation Napoleon

Author: Arnaldur Indridason

Publisher: Random House

RRP: $32.95

ISBN: 9781846552854

Release Date: 01/10/10


From the CWA Gold Dagger-winning author of the Reykjavík Murder Mystery series comes an international thriller sweeping from modern Iceland to America and Nazi Germany at the end of World War II.


1945: a German bomber flies over Iceland in a blizzard; the crew have lost their way and eventually crash on the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest in Europe. Puzzlingly, there are both German and American officers on board. One of the senior German officers claims that their best chance of survival is to try to walk to the nearest farm and sets off, a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. He soon disappears into the white vastness.

1999, mid-winter, and the US Army is secretively trying to remove an aeroplane from the Vatnajökull glacier. By coincidence two young Icelanders become involved – but will pay with their lives. Before they are captured, one of the two contacts his sister, Kristin, who will not rest until she discovers the truth of her brother’s fate. Her pursuit puts her in great danger, leading her on a long and hazardous journey in search of the key to the riddle about Operation Napoleon.


Operation Napoleon was first published in Iceland in 1999 and only just been published in English in 2010. The book is set in the time of World War 2 in Iceland, based on a Vatnajokull glacier where a plane has crashed. After a fruitless search by the US Army who were based in Iceland at the time, the story skips forward 50 years when a satellite image shows up the exact location of the mystery plane.

The search begins again with both the US Army and locals in a race to track down the plane of unknown origins. Conflict and resistance between the local government and US begins leading to an interesting read and suspenseful plot.

If you enjoy a good thriller in the vein of Tom Clancy then this book will be one for you.

BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow When The War Began 7: The Other Side Of Dawn

Title: The Other Side of Dawn

Author: John Marsden

Publisher: Pan Australia

RRP: $18.99

ISBN: 9780330403863

Release Date: 01-08-2010

Pages: 288


Daylight couldn't be far away, and if they hadn't found me by then, it wouldn't take long once the sun came up. The drops of blood would be a dead give-away. "Dead" in every sense of the word.

With a roar like a train in a tunnel, the war enters its final days. Ellie has to be on that train. There's no more sitting around, no more waiting. There's only fast decisions, fast action, fast thinking.

And she'd better get it right. With all their being, Ellie and her friends want to stay alive. But there's a war out there. And it has to be won. The end is here...

Author Information

John Marsden is Australia's bestselling author for teenagers and a highly acclaimed picture book writer. His previous titles include Winter, The Head Book, The Boy You Brought Home and Millie.

John Marsden lives at the Tye Estate, just outside of Melbourne, where he opened a school called Candlebark in January 2006. The school currently has 52 students, ranging from Prep to Year 7.


The seventh and final book in the Tomorrow When The War Began. The group are still on the run after their haven of Hell being discovered in the previous book. At least the war seems to be coming to an end with Australia signing a Peace Treaty with the invaders and forming a new nation. I am a bit disappointed by this outcome as an Aussie, I’d really hate to see us loose our way of life if such an outcome really came to pass.

The ending really does leave it open to a new series though as a new nation, I can imagine the sort of social upheaval and conflict in nations such as the Middle East and Ireland.

This series was extremely entertaining and I’d recommend it to adult readers even though it is a YA series.

BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow When The War Began 6: The Night Is For Hunting

Title: Night Is For Hunting

Author: John Marsden

Publisher: Pan Australia

RRP: $18.99

ISBN: 9780330403856

Release Date: 01-08-2010

Pages: 288


Hunting and being hunted.

Sometimes life seems to offer nothing more than a chase to the death. The fight to survive has never been fiercer.

But as they wage war, Ellie and her friends still find time for other things: friendship... loyalty... even Christmas.

If only they can withstand another night.

The Night is for Hunting is the sixth volume in the award-winning Tomorrow series.

Author Information

John Marsden is Australia's bestselling author for teenagers and a highly acclaimed picture book writer. His previous titles include Winter, The Head Book, The Boy You Brought Home and Millie.

John Marsden lives at the Tye Estate, just outside of Melbourne, where he opened a school called Candlebark in January 2006. The school currently has 52 students, ranging from Prep to Year 7.


Book six in the Tomorrow When The War Began series sees the group grow with the five new children rescued from the encounter at the end of the previous book. This union is short lived before the new group of kids runs off, only to be tracked down by Ellie and her group and brought back to the safety of Hell.

Having the younger members of the group proves to be a blessing and a curse, with the group enjoying the innocence of the children and their actions, but also leads to another unnecessary encounter and capture by the invaders.

After six books in the safe haven of Hell, the invaders finally locate them and now the group have to find a new sanctuary.

Another well written and fast paced book by Marsden.

BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow When The War Began 5: Burning For Revenge

Title: Burning For Revenge

Author: John Marsden

Publisher: Pan Australia

RRP: $18.99

ISBN: 9780330403849

Release Date: 01-08-2010

Pages: 288


The world is in flames...

You look behind – there's nothing but smoke. Ahead of you the future has just burst into flames.

Your life is on fire. The world's an inferno.

You're burning... with passion and fear, with love and rage.

You're burning for revenge.

Burning For Revenge is the fifth volume in the award-winning Tomorrow series.

Author Information

John Marsden is Australia's bestselling author for teenagers and a highly acclaimed picture book writer. His previous titles include Winter, The Head Book, The Boy You Brought Home and Millie.

John Marsden lives at the Tye Estate, just outside of Melbourne, where he opened a school called Candlebark in January 2006. The school currently has 52 students, ranging from Prep to Year 7.


Book five in the Tomorrow When The War Began series goes back to the tried and tested formula Marsden found success with in the first three book in the series. With the group now back in Australia and fighting the enemy and also for survival, friction and low morale hits the group again. While Ellie remains the strong heroine of the group, we see others take on slightly different roles and personalities. Kevin breaks down, Lee betrays Ellie and more survivors are found.

The group finally manages to destroy the airfield that eluded them in the previous book, but at a cost again. This book returns to fine form and is full of suspense and action like the first three.

BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow When The War Began 4: Darkness, Be My Friend

Title: Darkness, Be My Friend

Author: John Marsden

Publisher: Pan Australia

RRP: $18.99

ISBN: 9780330403832

Release Date: 01-08-2010

Pages: 288


Nowhere to run; one place left to hide. You're running from bullets through the streets of your own town. Your life's on the line and no-one's there to help.

What's happened?

When did safety turn to fear, peace turn to war, happiness turn to panic? When did your normal day become a nightmare?

Ellie and her friends struggle with the biggest questions life can offer in Darkness, Be My Friend, the fourth book in the award-winning Tomorrow series.

Author Information

John Marsden is Australia's bestselling author for teenagers and a highly acclaimed picture book writer. His previous titles include Winter, The Head Book, The Boy You Brought Home and Millie.

John Marsden lives at the Tye Estate, just outside of Melbourne, where he opened a school called Candlebark in January 2006. The school currently has 52 students, ranging from Prep to Year 7.


Darkness, Be My Friend is the forth book in the series of Tomorrow When The War Began. It has the tough task of picking up where the previous book left off, especially given that the series was wound up with it originally only being a trilogy. The start of Darkness, sees the group trying to live a life as refugees in New Zealand, where they were taken after being rescued at the end of book three.

Out of all of the books in this series, this one would be the weakest, with the plot of the New Zealand Army recruiting the group as a crack team of troops to go back to Australia to fight the invaders. The story is a bit hard to swallow until the reader gets past this stumbling block and the teens are back in the familiar element of the Australian Outback and fighting not only the enemy but also for survival.

After failed sabotage attempts, the group are left stranded and abandoned by the New Zealand Army, back to where they started in book one, but with less members and less friends and family alive in the concentration camps.

BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow When The War Began 3: The Third Day, The Frost

Title: The Third Day, The Frost

Author: John Marsden

Publisher: Pan Australia

RRP: $16.99

ISBN: 9780330356688

Release Date: 01-08-2008

Pages: 288


Live what you believe in... die fighting for it.

The third day comes a frost... a killing frost.

The enemy spreads across the land, cold and relentless. They invade. They destroy. They kill.

Only the heroism of Ellie and her friends can stop them.

When hot courage meets icy death, who will win through?

The Third Day, The Frost is the third volume in the award-winning Tomorrow series.

Author Information

John Marsden is Australia's bestselling author for teenagers and a highly acclaimed picture book writer. His previous titles include Winter, The Head Book, The Boy You Brought Home and Millie.

John Marsden lives at the Tye Estate, just outside of Melbourne, where he opened a school called Candlebark in January 2006. The school currently has 52 students, ranging from Prep to Year 7.


The Third Day, The Frost, is the third book in the Tomorrow Series by John Marsden. With this third book we see a formula developing for the plot; the group’s morale is at an all time low after a bittersweet success at the end of the previous book. As Marsden is a school teacher, he probably knows the psyche of a group of teens better than most, so perhaps he has an insight into how this group of survivors would act and react.

The group rescue one of its own and learn of the enemies plans, which they manage to disrupt again, this time by sinking one of their ships. We also see the group finding a radio strong enough to contact the New Zealand Army and send for help.

At the end of this book it looks as though the story might finish, but that is due to the series originally only being a trilogy that grew like the Hitchhiker’s Guide series to be an eight part trilogy. There were some pretty grim looking scenes in this book, with more than one occasion where you thought the heroes might finally run out of luck.

A great read that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

BOOK REVIEW: Tomorrow When The War Began 2: The Dead Of The Night

Title: The Dead Of The Night

Author: John Marsden

Publisher: Pan Australia

RRP: $16.99

ISBN: 9780330356473

Release Date: 01-08-2010

Pages: 288


Hell is still the safest place on earth.

When you've run out of choices, you've only got yourself.

As war rages, as the enemy closes in, as Ellie and her friends fight for their lives, they are left with nothing.

Nothing but courage, spirit and pride.

The Dead of the Night is the second volume in the award-winning Tomorrow series.

Author Information

John Marsden is Australia's bestselling author for teenagers and a highly acclaimed picture book writer. His previous titles include Winter, The Head Book, The Boy You Brought Home and Millie.

John Marsden lives at the Tye Estate, just outside of Melbourne, where he opened a school called Candlebark in January 2006. The school currently has 52 students, ranging from Prep to Year 7.


The Dead of The Night is the second book in the Tomorrow When The War Began series and a great follow up to the first book in this YA series. While the books have been around for awhile now, the recent release of the movies, Tomorrow When The War Began in 2010 has seen the series published again. It is quite surprising that it has taken seventeen years for this series to become a hit as it is a great story.

The story has been set in book one, with Australia under enemy occupation and a bunch of teenagers are trying their best to survive and do what they can to fight the invaders. After the bittersweet victory in the first series, the group is disheartened and wondering what happened to Corrie and Kevin. They set about finding out if they are alive, especially Corrie, who was critically injured in book one.

As with many war time situations, the group find another bunch of rebels and conflict occurs with them rather than uniting and becoming stronger.

This second book is a great sequel to the first book and extremely easy to read.

BOOK REVIEW: The Universe Parallel by Traci Harding

Title: The Universe Parallel

Author: Traci Harding

Publisher: Harper Collins

RRP: $32.99

ISBN: 0732281245

Release Date: December 2010


In the Universe Parallel, Taren Lenox and Lucian Gervaise land on a utopian planet of immortal psychics. It shares an orbit with their lost planet, Maladaan -- inhabited by a race that cannot abide psychism. Their saviours believe Taren and Lucian to be incarnations of their great ancestors, come to help them remove the alien planet from their star system.

Aided by her new allies, Taren moves to retrieve her lost memories from the Maladaan Secret Service?s memory bank in Esponisa. She discovers that the way to return Maladaan to its rightful universe and future, lies ten years in her past...

Superb storytelling and grand adventure from this best-selling and ever-popular author


The Universe Parallel is the second book in the Triad of Being series and the twelfth book by author Traci Harding. I enjoy reading Australian authors of speculative fiction, and Traci is one of the most prolific ones in Australia. Her books are always a delight to read with well developed characters and interesting plots.

As the title suggests, this book is set in various times and places with various versions of characters working to prevent a cataclysmic disaster as foretold by the lord of the Otherworld’s mother. I loved the way that Harding uses past and present versions of characters throughout her story in a very fresh and interesting manner. Having characters travel in time to set the planet of Maladaan back to its correct universe could be setting oneself up for a very clichéd and predictable plot, but not in the case of The Universe Parallel.

I would suggest reading the first book in this series before attempting this sequel though as events and characters may become confusing without this background knowledge.

BOOK REVIEW: Power Unbound: Dream of Asarlai Book Two By Nicole Murphy

Power Unbound: Dream of Asarlai Book Two By Nicole Murphy

ISBN: 9780732291624

On Sale: 1/01/2011

Format: Paperback

Trimsize: 179 x 113 x 27 mm

Pages: 416

RRP: $22.99

Book Description

For centuries, the gadda have worked to keep their identity secret from the rapidly expanding human race. All this is now at risk - the most terrible of gadda teachings, the Forbidden Texts, have been stolen and the race is on to find them.

Ione Gorton may have got her best friend back from Australia, but Maggie′s elevation to the ranks of the guardian’s means that she′s not around as much.

And when Stephen O′Malley, almost the youngest (and definitely the hottest) ever candidate for the sixth-order test, needs a place to stay after still more strange violence hits Sclossin, Ione is all too happy to lend a hand ...

But Ione, like Maggie before her, is soon a target for the forces behind the theft of the Forbidden Texts, and the now-urgent search for the artefact will change life for gadda and human alike.


Power Unbound is the second novel in the Dream of Asarli series, and follows on from book one, The Secret Ones quite nicely. Unlike many other sequels, Power Unbound is a very self contained story and can be enjoyed by the reader regardless of if they have read Nicole’s first book in the series. This is a pretty mean feat as many series tend to recap previous books so much that it pulls the reader out of the story, especially those followers who have been reading from the first book.

Murphy’s ability to create a new world within the familiar setting of our own is spectacular. The book is set in Ireland in a town called Sclossin inhabited by a race known as the Gadda. It is a majestic piece of writing with the Gadda and Human worlds sitting side by side with some interaction between the races without the knowledge of the humans.

The main character is Ione, a Gadda without magical powers common to her race. Murphy creates a great deal of sympathy in the reader by developing this powerless, magical being that relies on the ever so mundane human method for living. She appears so un-evolved compared to the rest of her race, who are able to complete just about every routine and everyday task by mystical means.

I love the Irish setting as well, there is just something erotic about the accent of an Irish lady and imagining the characters speaking with this dialect makes the book even more interesting for me.

This is a great, easy to read series and one that I look forward to reading many more books in.

BOOK REVIEW: Night of the Living Dead Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever Made

Title: Night of the Living Dead Behind the Scenes

Author: Joe Kane

Publisher: Aurum Press

RRP: $39.99

ISBN: 9781845136352

Release Date: January 2011


The behind-the- scenes story of the ultimate zombie movie’s creation and five-decade legacy.


Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Horror Movie Ever Made is not just a book for the zombie fan. Contained in this book are the story of George Romero and the rest of the crowd associated with this legendary movie, as well as details of other projects by them up until 2010.

There is a wealth of information that helps you understand how this movie gained its status, especially when it is quite tame compared to today’s standards. I for one did not fully appreciate the movie, having only seen it last year for the first time. It is hard to believe that there were so many elements of this movie that dealt with taboo subjects forty years ago when the movie first hit the big screen. Really goes to show how far society has declined when you see how a movie like this gained an R rating in 1968 and shocked movie goers.

Other interesting components of this book include the history of how the story was made of a shoe-string budget at night and on weekends so the actors and staff could maintain a paying job during the day. It was also interesting to read of how the lack of a copyright symbol meant that virtually no profits were ever seen by the producers and other staff. You just take copyright for granted today, but back in the 60’s the laws were such that the failure to include this symbol meant your work was free game. This movie was actually one of the key cases to change copyright laws.

Apart from the mammoth amount of interesting reading and history about NOTLD, there is also the original screenplay at the back of the book.

This was one of the best books about a movie and the industry I’ve ever read.

BOOK REVIEW: Best Australian Gardens and Landscapes by Gary Takle

Title: Best Australian Gardens and Landscapes

Author: Gary Takle

Publisher: Think Publishing

RRP: $39.95

ISBN: 9780980831412

Release Date: Dec 2010



Best Australian Gardens and Landscapes is part of the Best Of' series filled with what is now' in Australian garden design. The book walks the reader through a selection of Australia's best backyards and gardens.

In these modern times, our homes are becoming our sanctuaries and Australians are spending more time and money on their personal dwelling spaces. Featuring informative editorial, this book instructs the reader on how they can achieve a result that says wow'! People within the pool and landscape industry and consumers alike will love this book.

Full colour photography throughout augments Gary Takle's insightful text. A great gift for anyone interested in Australian garden design.


Best Australian Gardens and Landscapes is part of the Best of Series that includes Best Australian Architecture, Best Australian Interiors and Australia’s Best Beach Houses. If you’ve seen any of these other publications you’ll know the high standard of photography and subjects to expect with this next volume.

This is the prestige version of the multitude of gardening shows that you find on the free to air channels on the TV. The immaculate and breathtaking landscaping and gardening contained in these photos are truly amazing. When you see the amount of time and money that some people invest in their gardens and yards you will turn green with envy.

Definitely worth keeping on the coffee table to kick start conversations next time you’ve got guests over.

BOOK REVIEW: Spectrum 17: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art by Cathy & Arnie Fenner

Title: Spectrum 17: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art

Author: Cathy & Arnie Fenner

Publisher: Underwood Books

RRP: $45.00

ISBN: 9781599290430

Release Date: Jan 2011

Pages: 264


Challenging, controversial, educational and irreverent, the new addition to the award winning Spectrum series reinforces both the importance and prevalence of fantastic art in today’s culture. This elegant full-colour collection showcases an international cadre of creators working in every style and medium, both traditional and digital.


I’ve never seen the Spectrum Annual books before, but after reading Spectrum 17, I’m hooked and will be trying to track down the past 16 years worth. The 264 pages are absolutely chocked full of the best art from the previous year’s Science Fiction and Fantasy artwork.

There are covers of books, magazines, games, you name it and you’ll find it in this collection. Each piece of art has details of the artist, where it was published and the medium it was created with. I was amazed at the quality of some of the computer generated art work (which I’m not a big fan over). Some of my favourites were from artists who I had never heard of before, even though I recognised their artwork.

Each page contains either a full page spread of a piece of art or a couple of images. It would have been great to see every piece full sized, but I know that is not possible. As a budding artists myself, I was inspired by so many of these pieces to become more prolific with my own art.

This is a fantastic book that would start many conversations if left of the coffee table.

Friday, January 28, 2011

FICTION: The Murder by Howard Smith as told by Max Keanu

The Murder by Howard Smith

Look, I tell you what happened. I got an email from her... Now I’m going out of my head because I murdered this woman over 20 years ago. She found my Facebook page – go look at it, go there – . I tell you the truth, maxkeanu isn’t my real name. My real name is Howard, Howard Smith.

So the email from her said,

It’s been a long time Howie! I see you did well for yourself in Hawaii, married now with two sons. I found you on Facebook through your old friend and fellow musician, Art Pepper. I was married to Chris for 23 years, now divorced (long story, but he was a real bastard, as you know). I’m thinking of a vacation with my kids to Hawaii. Howard, please contact me, as I would like to talk to you about old times. I know how rough it was for you back then... hope you’ll forgive me. Love - Carla van Overbeak. P.S. Changed my name back because as much as I hated my given name, I detested Chris Simpson and his last name even more.

I‘m going out of my mind because I know I murdered this woman one evening twenty-two years ago. I abducted her, took her into the countryside, stabbed her multiple times, dumped her body in a quarry and I have nightmares about this one atrocious crime many times each week.

I murdered her in cold blood murder and never looked back... Christ, now what do I do? I guess this is a confession to you readers of The Fringe. Might as well confess on this web site as anywhere else since I know someone on this site will eventually call the police... be curious enough to query the editor or go to a blog. Go ahead, let (editor's name here)... any of the editors here know, check with him for my true name. I’m ready to pay the price for this crime.

I deserve the punishment, not that the guilt hasn’t torn me apart all these years. The nightmares have subsided somewhat, but I’m still racked by a weighty remorse that’s made me look old before my time. Really, a day doesn’t pass that I am not in some way reminded of her murder. Why do you think I write about crime and murder? It’s always in the back of my mind… murder, murder, murder… always the memory of her murder-- YES! I confess to it!

Thank Christ my two sons have grown, left home, married and my wife has her pension. I just realized if I’d just turned myself in long ago, I’d probably just be getting out of prison now. Yeah, I figure I’d have gotten 20-25 years for her murder... but, if she’s alive, then who did I murder?

People of this web site... I don’t know why I am revealing this crime to you here. Maybe it’s a manifestation of the guilt I feel, maybe you won’t believe me, but I must pay for what I did to her… or to some woman I don’t even know! And it just hit me again--I murdered an innocent woman! My God, how her loved ones must have suffered? Was her body even found?

But, I know I killed Carla Van Overbeak, I must have… and now a ghost of her comes back to haunt me through Facebook! Again, whom did I murder if I didn’t murder Carla... no, it had to be her! Someone found me out, someone is playing a vicious gag ... Blackmail....?

I’ll tell you what happened… I moved permanently to Hawaii right after that murder and struggled, worked my fingers numb playing music in dives and lounges and at weddings…. oh, I tell you, the wedding are the worst. Then finally, after years and years, I built a steady music career playing at a Hawaiian resort-hotel gig. That gig lasted over twenty years; same thing almost every night, music for tourist to chew by, then a hula show and then a late night lounge lizard gig. I made recordings, I made money, and I married, bought a house and had two fine boys... And all those years the law never caught on, never even a whisper of Johnny Law coming after me, never that knock at my door with the two detectives holding a warrant for my arrest.

It murder went like this: I flew to California, San Bernardino, California. It was in 1988 when you could fly to the mainland without giving out your identify, without showing a driver’s license or credit card. I gave a fake name.... Howard Smith sounds like a fake name, right... well, doesn’t it to you? I flew as George Bush, I swear to God. I was petrified about what I was going to do, but determined... determined never to be caught.

So, I get to LAX, then take a bus into the main bus station and then onto San Berdo. I know Berdo from when I was a boy and checked into a fleabag a hotel on Highland Avenue. I found her the next night when I recognized her car in the restaurant parking lot. I watched her come and go from a distance, while hiding in the shadows and slinking deep into the seat of my stolen car.

That restaurant.... Jesus, Goodies Restaurant it was called. We ate there all the time when we were married. It was our place for Friday night dates and Sunday breakfasts after church.

Did I mention that I was once a deputy Sheriff? I was a law and order guy back when I married to Carla, real gung-ho type.

Ah, Carla, beautiful Carla, actress to be, fashion model on her way up the ladder in nearby Hollywood and Newport Beach. She had big dreams and the face that made those dreams possible. We were both young then and believed anything could happen in life.

She was also the San Bernardino Sheriff’s only daughter--so what else was I supposed to do with my life but law enforcement. After we married, I needed to pay the bills and support her dreams and leading actress aspirations. Anyway, that time in the department was rough, related to Sheriff as I was, well I tell you, the other deputies never got over my rapid move up in the ranks. I made detective within three years and the old boys in the department detested the sight of me.

Nevertheless, the real story here is Carla Van Overbeak. She was in high school when I first saw her, approached her and made her my sweetheart. She was so happy to change her name to Carla Smith when we married, but her stage name, the name I had to introduce her as was Carla VanLotta--said it made her feel big, powerful, rich and even more beautiful. I guess she was a vain woman, a woman stuck on her unique looks and talents, but I only saw her inward beauty and only heard her sighs of mad love, when our lovemaking was everything to me.

When I murdered her, her name was Carla Simpson and she was pregnant. That was the last straw, the final humiliation that made me do it. She should have had my children, not his.

Carla and I didn’t last long because she fell in love with the undersheriff… Chris Simpson, the name still dredges up unresolved hates and anger in me. As my immediate boss he gave me the assignments that enhanced my reputation, tasks that gave me the respect I deserved, being as I was the son-in-law. He even gave me time-off to get my criminology degree, so Carla would have the lawyer husband she always dreamed of having. I was shuffled of town most of time when the undersheriff said he was too busy to attend conferences and training programs and readiness exercises statewide... all lies so he could do my wife. Boy, did he play me for a sucker!

Yeah, I wondered back then, why all the overtime, why all the over-night travel assignments, why was he honing me for advancement… but all the while, he was screwing her and screwing me behind my back.

As time passed, the other deputies started chalking my rise in the ranks up to nepotism and too her father’s power. Another deputy brought me up on charges of evidence tampering and it went downhill from that point on. The Sheriff had to start an investigation. I was demoted, given a sub-station command thirty miles from home, put out to pasture and out of everyone's buzz-cut hair. Of course, the undersheriff was the one who really pulled all the strings over the years to get me away from her and closer to his new love.

I discovered their affair one night when I was supposed to be in Vegas helping my old partner; Detective Steve Reeves pull a guy in on a warrant for murder. I saw Chris Simpson’s car, snuck to a back window and saw them doing it on the sofa in the TV room. Broken and confused I spied on her, on them both when I was supposed to at work at the sub-station in Apple Valley. Sargent Jack McGinty, my pal, covered for me on those long nights.

For three months I spied on her and endured her bold-faced lies and lame excuses. I built my spurned lover’s case file on Simpson, being the good detective I was and got the goods; the times, dates and the places. I had hours of recordings, all of it on camera and details of all their moves in my private notebooks. I’ve since lost those notebooks and videos or maybe Carla hired some goon to break in and steal them from me.

Undersheriff Chris Simpson, I almost killed him one night. I caught them in my house, in my bed for god sake... by accident or was it? I was working in the garage and wonder where Carla was. I called and called out for from the garage for her to get me a beer, but I got no answer, so after twenty minutes I walked into our house and searched for her.

I walked in on them an found myself standing in front of both them; fornicating like there was no tomorrow, sweaty naked bodies on my bed, just blatantly fucking away in front of me, smiling and groaning and then taunting me and laughing at me… as if I wasn’t even there. I saw Simpson’s service revolver in his hand and he was ready to use it, even while he was still fucking Carla. Oh man, I tell you, I was ready to get my gun and kill the both of them right that instant, but I just ran out madder than hell, seeing red, crying and vowing get revenge someday.

Later, I confronted her with the facts were as clear and as the beautiful nose on her face. She admitted to it without shame and then tortured me, telling me Chris Simpson had been her lover way before we were married. Then she told me that it was over between us, that she never wanted to see me again, that she wanted a fast divorce and all the money she could get out of me. She told me the undersheriff had something on me, something really really bad, she said with an assertive and self-confident smile.

However, I loved her to the end of the earth and cried like a baby as I told her she could love two men and begged and begged her not to leave me. However, later, I got mad, I got tough, I made threats, and I went to the ends of my tether to get her back any way I could.

Divorce ain’t easy-- as many of you know--but it was easy for her. And of course, I had to kiss the Sheriff Department job good by, as big daddy Sheriff was the cock of the walk and the undersheriff his dark shadow and servile yes-man.

I went to a place so damned low… fell to drink, drugs and then just sunk further and further, until I was down and out, and out of a job, and out of money, and out of my mind and out to a place that was not anything that could be called a decent living. Yeah, totally out of it, condemned to that place that desolate men go, that ‘take-a-number’ waiting room next to Satan’s real hell where your number is never called.

Hawaii looked really good to me as I watched a Hawaii-5-0 reruns one drunken afternoon. At the time, I was living in a $40 dollar a week hotel. The next day I gave everything I owned away, withdrew the remaining $435.28 to my name and flew away to the Big Island.

I pitched a tent in on an idyllic black-sand beach and I drank cheap beer for what must have been weeks on end. I was living the derelict life with a gang of scabrous, randy beach bums from a bad Somerset Maugham novel, until I started dealing pot and began to make some big money. Because I knew the police mind and methods, knew what the police did, didn’t do, I just outsmarted them at every turn. Then with my big money--I was the big man again--that is until I was robbed in my big beach-front rental of $40,000 in cash and pounds of primo buds and enough cocaine to keep a small army at war for a few years.

Unfortunately, about the same time, I also got a nasty staph infection that pulled me back down into addictions, dereliction and a camping existence with the derelicts who still called me buddy and pal and Howie Wowie.

Near death, the infection nearly covering me, with pus oozing from 30% of my skin, a public health official committed me to the Kona Hospital for treatment.

Cured after six weeks, I was a new man, but with a bill to Kona Hospital to the tune of ten grand… but I was alive, but only in body, not soul. After my discharged, nearly broke, seething with anger at her and my rotten destiny in this life, I withdrew all the money to my name and it was then I left … left that very weekend … so intent to murder her... and I remember it all as if it was yesterday....


I was outside her workplace, outside Goodies Restaurant and completely zeroed in on her when she exited out the back service door. I came up behind her in the pitch-blackness with my gun nudging the small of her back. Her body was still thin, shapely, beautiful... inside I cried, screamed, as I was still so goddamned heartbroken. I wanted her so bad at that punishing moment, it was an out of control desire for her to love me tenderly and yet at the same time a sexual desire of a ferocious nature, both combined at that very moment to dive me on in that madness... to that murder. I remember thinking at the time that her body was much smaller and somehow shorter than I remembered when we were together... I realize now that I didn’t see her face that night... not once did I look at her beautiful face!

Oh Christ... I’d built her up bigger in my mind and as I pushed her into the back seat of that stolen Ford Falcon, I was crying about my fate in life and death and pain and fortune and failure and then I just forced myself to do what I knew had to be done. I must have been crazy...

I placed a white cloth pillowcase over her head, tied it tight around her neck and then tied her hands and feet. I remember being dumbfounded as too how small, how weak she really was. I was buzzing with frantic inspiration and raging hate, hearing a fevered voice narrating to me through the entirety of the abduction… Her murder was of a hate, and a love, so profound that it ruled every action I made and all memory of it. It was like the crazy dream where I was the unstoppable and insane psychopath... but I tell you now, I am saner than you or as any man alive.

My God, did I, did I murder an innocent woman? I never did see her face that night! I just assumed it was her, because she walked away from the red Porsche. I knew it was her car; hell -- I’d bought it for her! Maybe she loaned it to a girlfriend that night, maybe she sold it to a waitress with a similar figure and blond hair. The waitresses, they all wore the same uniform at Goodies Restaurant, the woman I murdered had her blonde hair up done in a bun exactly like Carla's....

I remember her struggling in the back seat for her life as I was driving away from Goodies. She tried repeatedly to kick the back windows out with her sturdy work shoes. I remember those shoes—tiny, black, heavy, shiny patent leather, with heels worn on the inside. I remember grabbing her, pushing her down in the back seat after I pulled over to the side of road. But, the woman I murdered had big feet… Carla had tiny feet, dancers feet...

Under a mercury vapor streetlight's surreal fake light, with black blood spreading out slowly over the white pillow case bag, I repeatedly struck her...harder and harder ... I didn’t even realize I had that big bloody hunting knife in my hand until it was over.

I remember it all, and it still haunts me to this day... that knife plunging into her head into the white pillowcase over and over.... over and over....That blade slicing skin, abutting bone, tearing across her Scandinavian features... feeling that blade plunge in repeatedly, penetrate into her beautiful face and neck, slowly becoming aware that she’d stopped screaming, that her body had grown limp and lifeless… it had only taken seconds and then her life was just gone....

But those were the seconds, those were the moments in time that turned into weeks, months and then years of my mental agony.

I then drove around San Berdo crying, screaming and banging my hands repeatedly against the steering wheel in torment. My despair weakened me until I could barely hold my spinning-head upright. I could smell her body’s death in the back seat and hear her shift around as I ascended a mountain road at high speeds. It occurred to me to end it all, to drive off a cliff near Running Springs or just drive head on into the biggest vehicles approaching me from the opposite lane.

Hours later, I pulled off the road, on Tippecanoe Road. I remember that road name, as I kept saying to myself, Tippecanoe and Tyler too, repeating it constantly in fear and guilt. I still say that in times of stress and worry…

It was dark that night, a full moon at the zenith and thick clouds rolled in from the coast. The thick clouds above seemed to be taunting me, shadowing me, enclosing me. It started to rain and I saw lightning far away, somewhere, miles away in the vicinity of the badlands past Palm Springs.

I considered driving to the old San Berdo sub-station and turning myself in to Sargent Jack … yeah… McGinty would have understood why I did it. He was the night man, the veteran and he knew how much I loved her. I’d called him a friend, but friends weren’t really possible with the undersheriff ruling over the lives of these men and their futures.

I stuffed her in a sleeping bag; her head still wrapped in that blood soaked laundry bag and then I tied her up tightly with a new white nylon rope. I remember reaching into that sleeping bag and running my hands over her dead naked body, her legs, up to her… the feel of her dead flesh that was like tanned and smoothed leather from some ungodly creature… and yes, I still felt a lust for her, a sick sexual desire that I purged from my mind almost as soon as I thought it. My stomach turned over its contents in a sickening nausea. I wanted her in that way, in physical love, in penetration. I wanted sex, her love again…and as I grew erect, I was tempted to do her just one more time.

I couldn’t look at her face, but wanted too… just one last look at the face of a woman I loved more than life itself. Then I remember thinking, I might have stabbed her in the eye or sliced through her beautiful face, cup off a lip or... no I would not have that as the last memory of her.

I feared that arrogant smile of hers is I was to look at her, that always-superior smirk that had constantly tried to control me. I feared she would still possess that angular models face, those high cheekbones that she tortured me with that night I confronted her with her infidelity... that one look she gave me when she was in his arms, in my bed. Then there was her laugh… I feared it, thinking her dead lifeless lips might laugh at me again, might demean me again and cast her little Howe into a hell on earth… in a renewed madness I started stabbing her face madly until the seat, the entire back area of the Falcon, the windows, my arms, my face was covered with her blood.

I dumped her body in an old lime quarry near Norton Air Force Base, tossed my cloths, along with hers in the deep slate colored water and let the driving rain wash me clean of her blood and hopefully the guilt.

Then, while crying a river of longing to have her alive and with me again, I drove to Redlands, left the car in the Loma Linda Hospital parking lot and then walked in the driving cold rain towards Grand Terrace. I remember walking until the sun rose over the San Gabriel Mountains and then I hitchhiked to the Riverside bus station. I pretended to sleep on buses to LA and Lax. I left the knife on the bus in a Winchell’s Donut bag. I didn’t care if I was caught; I was resigned to any fate might that captured me. The entire experience was like a walking surreal nightmare. I was back in Hawaii in less than three days, and slept in sleeping pill induced delirium for what must have been days.

Then the time just passed.... I never looked for a report of the crime. I stopped communicating with old acquaintances in Southern California. The southwest of America was completely dead to me and I vowed never to return. I took the name max keanu for my music career and now for my writing... this writing life, fostered to compensate for the guilt I’m sure. I write it in lower case... to make myself invisible to the world and yet at the same time, a fixture of evil in it.

All I could do upon my return was to play the guitar. Music was my escape from that horrible memory of her murder. I was known as the quiet guy who played a sounding sweet axe. I never drank, nor did do any kind of drugs after that. I just played my guitar like a pro, night after night, week after week....

And I was good, one of the best, but melancholy was my mode of playing and my physical presence of my being and the look that was usually on my face. I never sang, was shy towards the press and promotion managers. The women who yearned for a musician to rock them in the late night hours never looked to me to make music with them.

Then along came Georgia and she loved me without question, accepted my quiet and reserved nature after one blind date with her. A family of two boys and me... this was her great love in this life and her total fulfillment. Her love pulled me out of the haunting memories of Carla’s murder... except when lost in some solo guitar lead and then I just poured out my evil and wicked soul with notes that left the crowd swaying in wonderment.

I started writing fiction out of guilt and shame--maybe I’ve always wanted to write this story of her murder, to get it all off my chest, to clear my conscious for the last time.

My god, my boys, my sons... all grown up now --soon they’ll find out that their father murdered-- but who did I murder that night?

I’ve searched the web tenaciously since I received her email. I just couldn’t find anything about her murder. It should have been somewhere on the web, since her husband was the undersheriff and then became the sheriff when Hawking Van Overbeak died.

However, nothing was on the web or in the archived news for the San Bernardino area--not that there weren’t murders that week. There were two, one was a brutal murder of a black woman in Rialto and the other was a woman who disappeared from Lytle Creek named Devon Selmer…. Blonde 26, a waitress, body never found.

What do I do?


I hear my wife Georgia diving up into our gravel driveway. I look at many of the familiar names of writers and bloggers on this site and wonder why I have to confess this story to you. I have placed my writing here before and maybe I feel that you readers are my extended family, my friends my....

I just don’t know what to do. You may have read my work before, under a different pen name or in different venues. Many of you may already now that I have strange ideas, unusual perversion and hidden demons that I constantly wrestle with in stories of horror or murder.

Tell me what I must do? Maybe you want to use Twitter to contact me – it’s anonymous, no one will ever know you sent me a tweet. Go ahead; it’ll be a private thing, just between you and me... maxkeanu or write about this dilemma in your blog or this publications blog.


Tonight, after dinner, I told my wife Georgia everything; the whole story, the dates, the times, every detail, just as I have told you here. But, I’m totally confounded now--she just won’t believe me. She laughed it all off, even reminded me that I was always telling her crime plots for novels and short stories and poems, but this one, she told me laughing, was a real whopper.

She did look at me askance a few times when I broke down crying, but I’ve told her many, many times that new story ideas affect me, that tears come to my eyes in strong emotions in story development or in first drafts.

I stormed out on her, bumbling over furniture and mumbling that I killed a woman, but I just didn’t know who she was. I heard her laugh as I left and say something about living with an artist... how the fun just never stops.

Of course, she ribbed me, I deserved it, preposterous, like she said... murdering a woman in cold blood, not even know who she was... a nice gentle and reserved guy like you Howard—no way!


She’s listening at my office door now. I hear her rummaging for the key under the eaves to unlock my office door. She enters, explains that she didn’t mean to make fun of me and that the murder story sounded like something an editor of mystery and crime stories would certainly publish.

Then she tells me that she went to Carla Van Overbeak’s facebook page--and I could tell she was jealous of Carla’s beauty right away. She informed me, with the old Kona Hospital bills in hand, that I could not have killed anyone on the date I mentioned. I was in Kona hospital, in a life and death struggle, in a medically induced coma with an antibiotics resistant staph-infection. She told me while looking at the bill, pointing out the dates to me. Georgia was a CPA, every bill we’d ever received was stored away neatly and professionally in one of her dozens of metal-file drawers that lined the attic walls.

Great story Howie, sweetheart, honey, she told me, then asked if I thought this old flame, if my ex-wife, Carla, was prettier than she. She told me she was jealous, that she was very mad that I’d never mentioned having been married before. Then she laughed and while leaving my office said again that she was only kidding me, that she loved me more that were fish in the sea.

How could I ever have reveal this to her, since wives never let a man forget a former love, and Carla Van Overbeak was a murdered lover, and the one past lover I had to forget to retain my sanity. On the other hand, had I gone mad, long, long ago and replaced my past twenty years with a delusion?

I knew my wife's love was far beyond sustained anger, petty jealously and hopefully beyond suspicions of murder. Maybe I did dream this in my raging fever, in that coma, long ago in Kona. Could I have imagined a vivid gruesome bloody murder, a second by second scene of a slaughter of such brutality and perversion? Had my mind played tricks on me for so many years?

I stared at the Kona Hospital bill and saw the dates and indeed I was in the coma at the same time as the murder. They corresponded exactly to the time I knew--imagined I had committed this horrible deed.

Now the question now is… did I get the dates wrong? Should I friend Carla on Facebook or pay her a late night visit, some very dark night on a secret trip to the Golden State?

FICTION: Herbie is Twelve Today By George Wilhite

Herbie was twelve.

Elated he lived so long this time, unscathed by glitches or imperfections, his parents spared no expense for his birthday bash.

“Hoorah!” All the guests yelled as he blew out the candles. Nobody noticed as his Mom and Dad exhaled a deep sigh of relief. His lungs, the first organs to fail last time, seemed strong.

Cake and ice cream followed, and then more fun and games. It was a hot August afternoon so they all drank lots of lemonade and soda. Lots of sugar highs would soon plague the neighborhood, but all the parents indulged their children that day, for everyone loved Herbie and his twelfth birthday was momentous. No other child had made it so far.

He was the oldest child anywhere in the state.

Well, more or less.

The previous Herbies were long forgotten. Just like the multiple Rick Hendersons and the many Greg Porters. Nobody consciously remembers them, for speaking of them in the presence of children is a crime. These other versions are part of their collective shame and denial, sequestered far away living out their imperfect pathetic lives.

Herbie was twelve, and they will all fixate on that. The process really was improving. Janice Andrews was so glad Herbie made it that far because her little James is only a few weeks younger. Unlike Herbie’s parents, Cliff and Norma Pfeiffer, she has tried only three times. There are many more Herbies to forget than she has Jameses.

Other countries boasted adult children, but so far America had not resorted to using the tactics employed to produce those more durable offspring. America’s youth still maintain pure human DNA; it was unlawful to use that of any other species even though that is apparently the secret to the longevity of the foreigners.

Twelve year old Herbie opened his mountain of gifts. So wasteful, since the other Herbies had plenty of the same toys and books. But the same bedroom in the Pfeiffer household was emptied out after each failed attempt, as the law required. Merchants specializing in children’s items were doing quite well for the time being due to this crazed recycling of barely used merchandise.

Then, it happened. While the entire town watched Herbie open the last of his presents, the Pfeiffers were publicly humiliated once more.

Herbie malfunctioned.

Only Cliff or Norma noticed the initial tic, ever so subtle, but modern parents detect every tiny shortcoming because perfection is the only desired outcome. But then the slight quiver in his lower lip escalated to a full-fledged twitch and soon spasms ripped through his entire body.

“M—m-m-mom. D-dad. I-I—sor-rr-ry.” Herbie blubbered as all his guests looked on in horror.

“It’s okay, sweetie,” Mom said, in a comforting tone, although these are the last words she will ever say to him. “We will take you somewhere. They’ll fix you up and all will be well again.”

Herbie tried desperately to believe his mother, but the crooked edges of her forced smile betrayed the truth. He would never see anyone in this room again.

A few moments before sunset, the recycling team fetched Herbie and it was time for the Pfeiffers to start again. Frustration and heartbreak long ago diminished their desire to continue trying to raise the first perfect child. But the government insisted on a contract that binds them to this fate for life.

“Where do you suppose they take them?” Norma asked.

“Now, now, dear,” Cliff answered in his sing-song voice of forced cheerfulness. “You know it’s best to not think about that.”

Norma watched the truck disappear as an enormous blood red sun touched down on the horizon. Her heart in her throat, she felt like a monster. Herbie was in the back seat, pounding on the window and screaming.

“Remember what they said, Norma,” Cliff prattled on. She barely heard him now through her fog of depression. “They aren’t real people until they’re eighteen.”

Norma knew all the rules and regulations. The callous scientists in charge of repopulating the world before it was too late were so brilliant and smug. Since the Herbies are not our flesh and blood, they think Cliff and I can just watch him drive away and think of him as recycled trash.

They were wrong, but it was too late now. The Pfeiffers signed the contract and the government took good care of them, at the small price of their souls.

It was dark now. Norma took Cliff’s hand and they walked inside to prepare the way for another Herbie.


"They're not pets, so don't get too attached to them." Commander 701 hissed the words gently for he remembered his own first spin around Earth orbit. And the second, and the third, and what it means to be posted here for a lifetime studying the humans as they messed it all up.

With no warning, he took his hands clear off the controls. It was just enough to start a little high speed wobble for the auto-assist to correct. A sideways glance at the co-pilot seat showed the younger reptilian was now fully focused on the re-entry protocols. He could relax as he said, "You take the ship down."

Cadet 13,012 replied briskly and correctly, "Sir-yes-Sir. Humans are not pets. No Sir. What we think about them is in no way mission critical and anyway, everything will be changing soon if the invasion force keeps to schedule. Taking us down now."

Just for a moment, Commander 701reached over and gently touched the firm young scales where the cut of the uniform revealed a tempting glimpse of glistening upper body. They had been together, alone out in deep space for a very long time.

"Just listen to you now," he said. "No more problems with your English. You sound just like these old movies you watched over and over again, until you got it right."

"OK boss." She spoke without taking her eyes off the controls. "I know it's not completely natural but it doesn't need to be. We're not here to negotiate."

"Remember your cultural orientation." The Commander smiled as he spoke. "It's not only about knowing how to speak. It's what you say that counts."

"Yes, perhaps we could let them know the main invasion fleet is on its way by saying we might have a few friends dropping in. It's a silly language anyway," said the Cadet.

"But it was you who volunteered for the mission and for the language." There was a hint of disapproval in his voice so the Cadet leaned over to touch him ever-so-gently on the knee. She knew that always worked.

Rising to the cultural challenge she said, "So, can you name me an Earth politician you would buy a used car from?"

"Oh any of them," said Commander 701."The few that think they know us, do what they're told. The ones who don't know, don't matter."

Then they were setting down on the surface of the deep blue ocean. She was pleased they were perfectly positioned above the under-sea base. It was getting dark. The Cadet thought that later she might ask to come up topside to enjoy the fresh breeze. Something real and natural after being in deep space for so long.

Just as they were slipping beneath the waves the Commander turned to her and said, "And there is something I need to tell you. My wife is stationed here. So we'll need to forget about what went on in deep space especially as I'm getting the old Admiral's job. I'm sorry I should have told you before, but you know what it's like out there."

"How could you," said Cadet 13,012. She spoke with a chill hiss. She had a new forceful look in her eyes. It was a look she had kept hidden as they traveled through deep space. Like she had hidden the fact that she had known all along about the wife waiting on Earth. Most of all, she had kept very quiet about her ambition to rise rapidly through the ranks and the knowledge that she had been getting herself the leverage to do just that.


It forced itself into the world by ripping her body a part. Cindy could feel it slide from her abdomen to her pelvis, breaking through layers of tissue and carving up her genitals as if a blade were opening her up for entrance. She was screaming and crying, but the doctors and her mother were cheering with joy. She could hear its heinous sound beneath the chatter and applause, as the doctor cut the umbilical chord and handed it over to its grandmother. Maura gazed upon it with adoration and slowly approached Cindy so that she could hold her young, but the new mother would not open her eyes. She could only feel the aches and pains that tormented her body and she begged her mother to let her sleep. “Hold your baby Cindy!” Maura demanded, but Cindy just could not. It was out of her now and she didn’t want to let it back in.

When it first got in her Cindy could not believe it. Only sinners had babies without husbands, like the women her mother spoke to across from the Planned Parenthood parking lot. Those women were whores and murderers, who denied their role under God’s law. Maura showed them little compassion as they’d walk by. When Cindy was a child, she’d carry her in front of the patients and yell at them to show their babies mercy. When Cindy was old enough to protest alongside her mother, she created her own sign to hold. It read “Mary was a mother and so are you.” The sign depicted baby Jesus resting his little head upon his mother’s chest. Cindy was a remarkable artist and painted the picture herself. She was also quite proud of the slogan, as it differed from some of the more gruesome messages the protestors used to make their point. In truth, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for the unfortunate women that approached the clinic. The ones who listened, and turned around to get back in their cars, were saving themselves from the wraths of Hell, but the ones who went ahead inside were condemning their souls for eternity. Cindy prayed for these women every night and asked the lord to protect the souls of their deceased and forsaken children.

Cindy was fourteen years old when blood dripped down her thighs, staining her white schoolgirl tights for everyone to see. The boys hollered in disgust and the girls giggled and teased her. Cindy ran out of the classroom and hid in the bathroom stall until one of the nuns found her and sent her to the nurse. At home, Maura gave her a pad and told her she had a responsibility to God now. “You must now accept the role that He has created for you.” She said and Cindy thought of the women at the clinic, their tears, their confusion, and their grief. The role for women seemed unfair to her. Why must women bleed and carry children, and not men? Why must men do what they please? “Because men” Maura told her daughter, “have important roles too. Their job is to care for the women and children and make sure we are safe and provided for. Find yourself a good man and you will have everything you need.”

Brad O’Connelly smiled at Cindy in the halls and poked her waist while sitting behind her in Biology. He had orange-red hair and freckles that blended with his bad case of acne. His constant attention was rather burdensome to Cindy, but even if she ignored him or told him to get lost he still pursued her. When Cindy started her period in class, Brad would say to her, “You better hike your skirt down a little more. I can see your tampon string,” or “Hey Cindy, did you have fish for lunch or is that just your twat?” This caused Cindy to fret about showing her face at school, but Maura hardly let her skip a day, even if she was ill. So Cindy bypassed Brad and his snickering friends by speed walking through the halls. One day Brad followed Cindy home after school let out. “How come you don’t say hi to me no more?” Brad asked.

“Leave me alone!” She warned him, holding her books tight against her chest.

“Look, I know I’ve been an asshole, but the truth is, I really like you.” Cindy stopped and searched his eyes for signs of trickery. She could not find any, and when he asked to kiss her she shrugged and reluctantly removed her bubble gum. He put his tongue inside her mouth and wiggled it around. His saliva tasted like a blend of cigarettes and cafeteria meatloaf, but something sparked in Cindy. She had never had a boyfriend before, and she realized that Brad’s obsession with her was more flattering than daunting. Kissing him wasn’t half bad either, and when she laid down for bed that night, she imagined doing it more.

Not long after that, the two started making out on the slide at Gretel Park and exchanging notes during biology with Xs and Os and winking smiley faces. Then Brad graduated to illustrating Cindy naked with exaggerated breasts and a skinny waist. Cindy considered what the nuns at school might think of her and what her mother would say. She would be banished and denied of her dignity, just like the poor troubled sluts whom she’d seen enter Planned Parenthood with their heads lowered and their hearts heavy. Then Cindy remembered a girl she had met once while picketing with her mother. She was a teenager, fourteen or fifteen, and through her tears she stood strong with her young boyfriend and told the demonstrators that they were not sinners. They had slept together because they loved each other. To which Maura replied that it was love that made their child. Cindy assumed her mother disapproved of any affection outside of wedlock, but if she could sympathize with the girl’s desire to experience physical love, surely she could not hold Cindy accountable for her own desires. She didn’t know if it was love that made her curious to explore with Brad, but she did hope to marry him some day in order to assume her life’s duty. “Meet me at the park after chorus”, she wrote Brad through text.

The teenage couple huddled together under the playground structure and kissed and fondled each other. They could hear the chains of the swings squeak in the wind as they fumbled to get undressed and joined together nervously and without much talk. Cindy was dry and tense and she whimpered as Brad pushed himself in. She held onto his bumpy, pimpled back and bared her teeth to keep from screaming, and then it was over.

The next time they did it, Brad lasted longer, but the harsh strokes of his pumps still caused Cindy discomfort and she didn’t know how to touch him or what to do beneath his weight. After the third time, Brad didn’t kiss her on the lips, and avoided her at school for weeks. When she finally approached him, he told her he felt suffocated and wanted to see other people. Cindy was devastated. She held her stuffed lamb, Lilac, and cried in her mother’s arms. Maura cradled her daughter and brushed her hair soothingly to mend her broken heart. “How could he hurt me like this Mama?” Cindy asked.

“Men don’t always stay put.” Her mother replied.

“Like Daddy?”

“Yes. Men sometimes need to spread their seed. It is God’s way, and God has a special plan for us all.”

“Mama, I don’t think I’m ready for God’s plan.”

“But you are,” Maura said with a smile, her eyes soft and kind. “God’s plan for you has just begun.” Cindy figured her mother was referring to the start of her period, but she was uncertain. Maura’s tone seemed to suggest something greater and more monumental. Then Maura put her hand on her daughter’s flat belly. “You haven’t been using your pads.” She said. “You haven’t needed to. A child is growing inside of you.” And with that, Maura slapped her daughter hard across the face, causing swelling and redness around the young girl’s left eye.

Mary was a mother and so are you.

But it could not be true, it just couldn’t. She was a good girl and she was only fourteen. She and Brad had sex so few times, and those few times were quick and painful. They could not possibly have done this to her. Anyway, this was different from the teenage couple at the clinic. They were in love, and Brad had moved on.

Maura brought Cindy to the doctors where she had an ultrasound and was able to see what Brad had put inside her. Maura’s eyes watered at the sight of her grandchild, but Cindy didn’t believe the image was real. She thought maybe her mother and the doctor were lying to her, in order to teach her a lesson about giving up her sacred virginity. Even when the nausea began, Cindy was convinced her mother had poisoned her food and she began feeding her dinners to the cat just to make sure.

At twenty-two weeks Cindy’s belly protruded beneath the buttoned down white shirt of her schoolgirl uniform. Gossip emerged from the girls’ locker room and Dr. Mueller, the school principle, asked Cindy not to return to campus until after she had given birth. “But my geometry test is next Friday!” Cindy cried, knowing that it would do no good.

“I’m sorry Cindy, but we can’t have pregnant girls walking through the halls of St. Peter’s High. It’s a liability and we have an example to set.” When Cindy arrived home she went to the bathroom and tried to push the thing out of her, but it wouldn’t budge. She could now feel it kick and turn inside her, like some alien gestating, waiting for the right time to wreak havoc on her simple and steady life.

Gradually it got bigger, making her ugly and round, and her ankles thick and shapeless. Maura arranged a baby shower for the girl and invited Cindy’s friends and family to offer gifts and encouraging advice. Cindy was greeted with plenty of questions she could not answer, such as “was the baby a boy or girl?”, “what names did she have picked out?”, and “who was the father?” Of course, close friends of Cindy knew Brad from school, and when they were asked about him, Cindy learned that he had a new girlfriend and claimed that the baby wasn’t his. Cindy’s misery and stress intensified when her mother tore open her gifts as if they were meant for her. She posed for pictures, displaying each toy and child-bearing facilitator high in the air, as Cindy watched with an overwhelming sense of dread. Grandma Jean showed Cindy a photo album of the family lineage and spoke of ancestry, bloodlines, and generations. But her stories seemed to bounce off Cindy like a dart to a stone wall. The praises and congratulations from her guests were mentally blocked and Cindy found herself sinking under the pressure of diaper disposals, breast pumps, bibs, and pacifiers. Mary was a mother and so are you. She dismissed herself and fled to her room for peace, squeezing Lilac and sucking her thumb hungrily.

When it arrived it was wrinkled and purple. Its toothless mouth and bald head made it look like a miniature old man, the kind that preys upon children by acting sweet and harmless to fool its victims. Cindy’s nurse taught her how to feed it through her nipple, but the thing screeched and rejected her and she begged the nurse to take it away. At home, Cindy used her breast pump and Maura fed it with a bottle. She watched as her mother sang to it and spoke in a tender, high pitched voice. When Cindy could not come up with a name to call it by, Maura began to use the name Nick, after her brother who killed himself with a shotgun. Cindy remembered her Uncle Nick. He was warm and funny, and gave wonderful bear hugs. She missed him and liked his name, but monsters didn’t have names. Nothing so ugly and so evil could ever deserve a good Christian name like that.

It had burning red hair and slept in a bassinet beside Maura’s bed, crying all the time. Cindy would watch it from afar with leaking tits and growing anxiety. Its constant cries made Cindy rip out chunks of her hair, and if her mother was away she’d lock herself in her room and cover her head with pillows. Cindy would then suck her thumb and cry for Mama, but when Maura refused her any affection, she would piss her bed instead of using the toilet. Finally, when the smell became more than Maura could bear, she stripped her daughter of her clothes and threw her into a searing hot bath. When the girl was washed and her sheets were purified, Maura took Cindy by the arms and led her into the thing’s room. As always, it lay in a bassinet with horrible shattering howls that plagued Cindy’s ears. “Pick him up!” Maura yelled.

“I can’t!” The girl cried.

“Do it! Pick him up!” But what Cindy saw was not a baby. It was an ugly, horrid creature, much like the images she saw growing up within the prolife community; a mangled fetus, recently ripped from its mothers’ womb. Carefully, Maura took it in her arms and shoved it against her daughter, whose arms flew open, letting the creature fall to the carpet with a frightful shriek. Cindy dropped to her knees, bellowing madly. “You nasty witch!” Maura shouted and she scooped it back up and checked for signs of trauma. As she comforted it and kissed it with desperate love, Cindy noticed that it no longer looked like the gory sight from before. It had the ability to disguise itself, make itself adorable, so that Maura would love it. However, Cindy was shocked that her mother, a woman of God, could not see through the manipulation. It was that thing that was evil and inhuman, the devil manifested, come to possess her and torture her for sinning so deeply. She wondered if that’s why women did what they did when their pregnancies were unwanted. Perhaps it was the only way to beat a demon.

Cindy wrapped the thing in blankets and placed it in its carriage. She told her mother that she was taking it for a stroll. “Let me come with you.” Maura insisted.

“No! I want to do it alone,” she said. “I need to.” And she walked for six miles until reaching the Planned Parenthood clinic. Mary was a mother and so are you.

“I need you to kill it.” She said to the woman at the desk, who wore a white uniform and a badge.

“Excuse me?”

“Please kill it for me! It’s destroying me!”

“My god, child! What on Earth are you talking about?

“Isn’t that what you do here?”

“Certainly not! Aren’t you Maura Hendrick’s daughter? What kinds of things does she plant in that brain of yours?” Cindy panicked and escaped through the front doors, leaving the carriage behind. But by the time she got home, Maura was already pulling into the driveway with the demon strapped into the back car seat. It wasn’t going to go away so quickly, even baby murderers knew it wasn’t a baby that could be easily abolished. Maura brought the thing inside without a glance toward Cindy.

“Mama?” Cindy murmured, but her mother said nothing to her. Calmly, she fed the demon its bottle and bounced it while singing sweet melodies. When the demon had finally dozed off and all was still and quiet, Maura busied herself with a crossword puzzle in front of the TV. Cindy then made her way into her mother’s room where the thing napped beneath a blue blanky that had teddy bear prints. Next to its heaving chest was Lilac, Cindy’s stuffed lamb. She huffed with fury, as she realized how it had taken from her everything and everyone she’d ever loved. It had controlled and deceived her mother and stalked her to the point of insanity. Had she known the extent of punishment, she might have never let Brad touch her. There was only one thing left to do, and that was to exorcise the demon for good. Cindy removed a feathered pillow from off her mother’s bed and raised it high over the bassinet. She took a deep breath and stared at the thing sleeping, its face angelic and peaceful as it made suckle motions with its mouth. Cindy lowered the pillow, realizing she could not do it, and a quick and sudden blade cut through her throat. Blood poured from Cindy’s gash, as brutal and as agonizing as giving birth had been. Cindy wrapped her hands around her neck and collapsed to see her mother standing above her with a reddened knife. “Mary was a mother and so are you.” Maura hissed. Cindy coughed up blood from her mouth and thought of life and responsibility. She thought of motherhood and all the things it was supposed to be, and all the things it wasn’t. She thought of blood and sex and God and everything that brought her to this moment. She thought of Hell and wondered if she’d ever see her beloved mother again.