Saturday, April 30, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Ground Is Burning

Title: The Ground Is Burning

Author: Samuel Black

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $32.99

ISBN: 9780571269402

Release Date: April 2011

Pages: 350


A sweeping historical novel set during the great Italian wars of the early sixteenth century.

Seduction, betrayal and murder: the true art of the renaissance. Cesare Borgia, Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci - three of the most famous, or notorious, names in European history. In the autumn of 1502, their lives intersect in a castle in Italy's Romagna.

In this hugely intelligent and entertaining novel, Samuel Black tells the true story of these men who, with different tools - ruthless ambition, unstoppable genius and subtle political manipulation - each follow an obsession to attain greatness and leave a lasting mark on the world. And at the centre of this court of intrigue and deception is Dorotea Caracciolo, a young noblewoman abducted by Borgia who has become his lover - and his secret agent. Their story begins in hope and fear and ends in bloodshed, deceit and triumph.

Along the way, there are battles and romances, lavish parties and furtive stranglings. And out of this maelstrom will emerge the Mona Lisa and The Prince.

About Samuel Black

Samuel Black was born in London and grew up in France. The Ground is Burning is his first novel.


The novel tells the story of Leonardo DaVinci, Nicolo Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia from 1479 to 1516.

It’s chronologically told so that each character tells their part in each historical even that passes during the set period.

I found this fascinating as each person’s view is different. It makes the story twist perfectly. The side characters are great and they add spice to the main character’s lives.

The author explains that the novel is historically based with some inventive changes.

I think Samuel did a great job. I loved it and think that he should write another novel like this one.

BOOK REVIEW: A Pocketful of Eyes

Title: A Pocketful of Eyes

Author: Lili Wilkinson

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $17.99

ISBN: 9781742376196

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 324


When a dead body is discovered at the Museum, Beatrice May Ross is determined to use her sleuthing skills to solve the case. Sharp, sassy YA crime-fiction, with a dash of romance and a splash of funny.

DescriptionBee is in her element working in the taxidermy department at the Museum of Natural History, but her summer job turns out to be full of surprises:

A dead body in the Red Rotunda. A mysterious Museum benefactor. A large stuffed tiger in the Catacombs. A handsome boy with a fascination for unusual animal mating habits.

And a pocketful of glass eyes.

Can Bee sift through the clues to discover whether her mentor really committed suicide ... or is there a murderer in their midst?

'Smart, slick, funny, with sharp edges. Lili Wilkinson is like a coolgeekgirl Agatha Christie.' - Simmone Howell, author of Everything's Beautiful

'Wry, sly, funny, smart, and very entertaining.' - Jaclyn Moriarty, author of Feeling Sorry for Celia

About Lili Wilkinson

Lili Wilkinson was born in Melbourne, Australia, in the front room where her parents still live. She was first published when she was twelve, in Voiceworks magazine. After studying Creative Arts at Melbourne University, Lili worked on, the Inky Awards and the Inkys Creative Reading Prize at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria. She now spends most of her time reading and writing books for teenagers. She's won awards for the writing part, but not the reading, unless you count the stopwatch she won once in the MS Readathon.


A Pocketful of Eyes is a well written YA novel in the style of Nancy Drew. If you enjoy that sort of mystery then this is the book for you. The characters are developed with the same kind of detail that you’d find in a Nancy Drew book as is the format.

There are clues that will lead you both on the right path and off track, keeping you guessing and wondering which way the story will turn.

Hope this is going to be an ongoing series.

BOOK REVIEW: Freedom from Toxic Relationships

Title: Freedom from Toxic Relationships

Author: Avril Carruthers

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $27.99

ISBN: 9781742375069

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 272


Toxic relationships can affect you at home and at work - discover the tools you need to leave these painful, destructive relationships behind.

Toxic relationships come in many guises. That's why they're so hard to pick. Often toxic relationships don't entail physical violence so much as a slow erosion of self esteem, a loss of personal identity, or a growing desire to please friends, partners, family members and others who're impossible to please. Many toxic relationships begin early in childhood, or when we start to form our own personal relationships. Even though we find the courage to move on, if the fallout from these relationships is not dealt with we may end up attracting more of the same. If we can observe patterns in our relationships, we may see that our present and past relationships involve binding ties that remain, even when we wish to move on. Learn how to recognise the manipulative or sweetly corrosive partner, the family dynamics that make Christmas and other get-togethers hell, the nightmare boss. And learn what you can do to leave these painful, destructive patterns behind.

About Avril Carruthers

Avril Carruthers, transpersonal psychotherapist and author of Let Your Past Go and Live, holds regular workshops and has been in practice for over 20 years.


Freedom from Toxic Relationships by Avril Carruthers was quite an interesting read for a nonfiction self help book. Carruthers explains the various forms of relationships that we can expect to encounter in our lives and through this identification, just how to deal with them. By reading the book, I was able to identify a number of people throughout my life who would be classed as a toxic relationship in my life. It is a shame that I didn’t have this book thirty years ago as I could have taken a completely different path by identifying these and dealing with them effectively. It happens without our being aware of it. Toxic connections can create misery because often we feel so bound by shared history, or maybe our perceived duty, that we believe we cannot, or should not, let go. We feel too attached and it can limit our expression of who we are

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has people in their lives that are counterproductive and want to know how to best deal with them.

BOOK REVIEW: Fire and Song

Title: Fire and Song

Author: Anna Lanyon

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $29.99

ISBN: 9781741147087

Release Date: March 2011

Pages: 384


Tells the story of the Jewish martyr Luis de Carvajal, and his sister, Leonor, who died together in Mexico City in 1596, exploring his determination never to lose heart, no matter what, and to cling to his faith and cultural identity in the face of totalitarian oppression.

It is1596 and in Mexico the Inquisition is at its most efficient. A young man trembles in his cell as he prays for salvation, torn between the Christianity he was schooled in and his ancestral faith. What heresies will the Holy Office uncover? Can he protect his mother and sisters?

He is Luis de Carvajal. His forbears had fled the Inquisition in Spain to Portugal and then from there to the New World. But the lives they try to rebuild as conversos in Mexico are just as perilous, for the Inquisition is determined to root out heretics throughout its realms. Luis's quest for true faith unfolds a tense and moving narrative, as he and his family's spirit and ingenuity are tested again and again.

Anna Lanyon's Malinche's Conquest was awarded and widely translated, and was followed by The New World of Martin Cortes. Fire and Song also shows her as the historian whose chronicles from contemporary testimonies are so vivid that readers feel witness to the dramatic events and intimate moments of individual lives, woven deftly into the fabric of their times to illuminate the bigger historical picture. Fire and Song presents a world without the human rights and tolerance we take for granted today; yet the insights remain all too pertinent - into the power of faith, the tangled knot of religious and political interests, and human yearning for identity, belonging and spirituality.

About Anna Lanyon

Anna Lanyon studied Spanish, Portuguese and History at La Trobe University in Melbourne. She travelled widely before settling with her family on the southern coast of Victoria, near Portland. She teaches and translates Spanish, and is the author of Malinche's Conquest (A+U 2000). She works in Portland for La Trobe University's Centre for the Study of Mothers' and Children's Health, and continues to write whenever she can.


This is Anna's third book, like Malinche's Conquest and The New World of Martin Cortes, explores events that occurred in Mexico during the sixteenth century.

Fire & Song takes us on a sixteenth century journey from Spain to Portugal to Mexico, recording the faith of secret Jews and their persecution in Christendom. More predominantly the story details the history of the Carvajal family and the lengths Luis de Carvajal went in order to uphold his belief while being subjected to two Inquisitions by the Holy Office.

Yet it is from the records of the Holy Office that this true story of the life of this family, at home and in prison that this account is recorded. That said, these would remain archived records about long-dead, long-forgotten people, if it wasn’t for the kind of historian and story-teller that Anna Lanyon is.

It is truly horrific that these events actually happened.

BOOK REVIEW: First Thrills

Title: First Thrills

Author: Lee Child

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $32.99

ISBN: 9781848876934

Release Date: March 2011

Pages: 368


A collection of original, high-octane short stories from some of the biggest names in thrillers.

Number one New York Times bestselling author Lee Child has teamed up with the International Thriller Writers Organization for First Thrills, a showcase of bestselling authors as well as rising stars in the genre.

First Thrills will include never-before-published stories by New York Times bestselling authors including Lee Child, Stephen Coonts, Jeffrey Deaver, Heather Graham, Joan Johnston, John Lescroart, Alex Kava and Deb Carlin, Michael Palmer (with Daniel James Palmer), Karin Slaughter, and Wendi Corsi Staub.

This collection also serves as a great introduction to those whom the ITW has christened its rising stars, including Sean Michael Bailey, Ken Bruen, Ryan Brown, Bill Cameron, Rebecca Cantrell, Karen Dionne, JT Ellison, Theo Gangi, Rip Gerber, Gregg Hurwitz, CJ Lyons, Grant Mackenzie, Marc Paoletti, Cynthia Robinson, and Kelli Stanley.

The stories fit under the most inclusive of thriller umbrellas, but many contain elements of mysteries, science fiction, and horror as well. They feature an equally diverse cast of characters, too, ranging from con men and killers to aliens, ghosts and zombies.

About edited by Lee Child

Lee Child is an international No.1 Bestseller. His Jack Reacher novels have been published in 40 territories. He was born in Coventry, went to school in Sheffield but now lives in Manhattan.


First Thrills is a collection of short stories from a group of well know crime and thriller authors. The latest of these, FIRST THRILLS, is a masterpiece, comprised of 25 stories that each possesses some quality for recommendation. Nicely balanced between well-known authors and those who will be soon, it is a smorgasbord for readers who require an introduction to the thriller genre but are unsure where to begin. Those who are familiar with some of the contributors will enjoy encountering them in a somewhat different context; short fiction, as well as discovering new authors to place on their "must read" lists.

"The Dead Club" by Daniel James Palmer and Michael Palmer is the best bet as wagering on death mirrors real life gambling pools. Other strong entries include "The Thief" by Greg Hurwitz and Ken Bruen's "Wednesday's Child". None of the entries from the veterans or the rookies are bad, but few are excellent. Still fans will enjoy dining with Rip Gerber, Sean Michael Bailey and other newcomers and vets like Stephen Coonts, John Lescroart, Karin Slaughter and Heather Graham as each provides readers with plenty of chills and thrills. John Lescroart's "The Gato Conundrum" is an example. Lescroart, best known for his legal thrillers featuring Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky, here taps into his inner Robert Ludlum with a haunting tale of espionage that is complete in less than 20 pages. Lee Child's "The Bodyguard" is not a Jack Reacher story. It's a very clever piece of work, one involving a personal security job that goes bad and gently tugs your expectations one way until you wind up somewhere that is totally unexpected, yet is quite consistent with what has gone before.

And Karin Slaughter? Incapable of disappointing, she takes us far away from the environs of Georgia in "Cold Cold Heart," a grim tale of domestic one-upmanship that is played out between a mismatched couple long after their marriage has ended. 'Til death do they part, indeed.

Last Supper by Rip Gerber is different from her work to date that would best be classified in the techno-thriller genre, there is nothing at all techno, as that term is commonly used, about his contribution. It is instead a smart tale of revenge with an ending you might see coming but that strikes from an unexpected direction.

BOOK REVIEW: Son of Heaven

Title: Son of Heaven

Author: David Wingrove

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $32.99

ISBN: 9781848875258

Release Date: April 2011

Pages: 400


A monumental publishing event: Introducing Chung Kuo, a masterwork of future history standing alongside Herbert's Dune and Asimov's Foundation.

The year is 2065, two decades after the great economic collapse that destroyed Western civilisation. With its power broken and its cities ruined, life in the West continues in scattered communities. In rural Dorset, Jake Reed lives with his fourteen year old son and memories of the great collapse. Back in '43, Jake was a rich, young futures broker, immersed in the datascape of the world's financial markets. He saw what was coming - and who was behind it. Forewarned, he was one of the few to escape the fall.

For 22 years, he has lived in fear of the future, and finally it is coming - quite literally - across the plain towards him. Chinese airships are in the skies and a strange, glacial structure has begun to dominate the horizon. Jake finds himself forcibly incorporated into the ever-expanding 'World of Levels' a global city of some 34 billion souls, where social status is reflected by how far above the ground you live.

Here, under the rule of the mighty Tsao Ch'un, a resurgent China is seeking to abolish the past and bring about world peace through rigidly enforced order. But a civil war looms, and Jake will find himself at the heart of the struggle for the future.

About David Wingrove

David Wingrove is the Hugo-Award winning co-author (with Brian Aldiss) of The Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. He is also the co-author of the first three Myst Books - novelisations of one of the world's bestselling computer games. He lives in North London with his wife and four daughters.


Son of Heaven is book 1 of 20 in Wingrove's retelling and elongating of his 8-book epic Chung Kuo which was published from 1989 to the late 90's. If you are a sci-fi fan or fantasy fan, if you like Asian culture, if you like politics, if you find yourself frequently asking the question "what if?" then you have to get Son of Heaven. It's the first step in an epic journey that you will never forget.

In this alternate future Earth, the Chinese, under the leadership of one brilliant and capricious man, successfully set the Information Age back hundreds of years. Lawlessness abounds and small communities band together for mutual protection and trade. There are three distinct parts. The story opens in 2065, in rural Dorset, England. Twenty-two years after the collapse, tensions are, once again, mounting, as rumours fly across the land and an unnatural, huge, white structure can be barely discerned on the edge of the horizon. The second part delves backwards in time as details of the economic crisis and ultimate collapse are relayed. It is in this part we discover the role Jake played and relive those harrowing days with him. Then finally, in the third section, the invading force arrives with superior numbers and high-tech weapons, this relentless force seems to be unstoppable and determined to “process” every last living soul.

This book is brilliant and I can’t wait to read the remaining books in this series.

BOOK REVIEW: The Harlot’s Press

Title: The Harlot’s Press

Author: Helen Pike

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $29.99

ISBN: 9781907595134

Release Date: Feb 2011

Pages: 384


A romping historical drama, in which St James's and Cheapside, royalty and the rabble become thrillingly entangled as this plucky young printeress battles to stay alive.

And what was I, a mere printer, doing sweeping up my silk skirts on Jermyn-street, you might ask? Well, if you know anything about our city, I'm sure you can guess. The strange thing is, although I invented some lies to explain to my stepfather where I had been while he was imprisoned, and would rather impale myself on the iron railings which surround St Paul's churchyard than tell him the truth, the desire to recount the events of those six months is gaining on me by the minute. At times like this I almost understand the Catholics, for their sacrament of Confession strikes me as a wonderful cure: if I could just tell my story once, not leaving out the worst parts, in fact dwelling on them in the name of absolution, then perhaps I would stop going over and over them in my mind, inventing more and more ways of dressing up my shame in fancy imagery ...

About Helen Pike

Helen Pike lives in Guildford and Oxfordshire. She is a History graduate of Oxford and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. This is her debut novel, and was in part inspired by her history teaching.


Set during the reign of George IV in the tumultuous summer of 1820, The Harlot's Press follows Nell Wingfield, a gutsy seventeen-year old print-maker of satirical political pamphlets. Nell's mother is dead, her 'blackamoor' stepfather - a liberated slave from Jamaica who officially runs the print shop, but whose real vocation is that of God-botherer and rebel - has just been released from jail, and her brother Tom is about to be hanged for treason. Nell herself has recently returned after a six-month absence that she would rather not explain. Distraught after her mother's death and more than a little naive, she was duped into working at one of the 'Houses of the Quality', the brothels on St James's, where she found herself turning tricks with men at the heart of the English establishment. When one of them, a key protagonist in the plot to keep Caroline of Brunswick from the throne, is murdered in his bed, it is time for Nell to flee. For she has had more than a commercial relationship with this man, and knows that his political enemies will exploit this in an attempt to pin the murder on her.

The Harlot's Press is a romping historical drama, in which St James's and Cheapside, royalty and the rabble become thrillingly entangled as Nell battles to stay alive. This plucky young printeress will show you a London that your history lessons might well have kept from you.

BOOK REVIEW: Small Blue Thing

Title: Small Blue Thing

Author: C.S.Ransom

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $15.99

ISBN: 9780857630001

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 320


Love. Death. Memory. Betrayal. The river has its secrets. But one mysterious bracelet will unlock it all and lead Alex down a path that will lead her to fall in love and risk everything.

Celebrating the end of exams with best friend Grace, 17 year-old Alex rescues a swan caught on a wire in the Thames mud and finds an extraordinary bracelet. Through its disturbing and compelling powers, she finds Callum, a soul locked in a half-life of sadness and mystery following a terrible accident, and his persuasive and sinister sister, Catherine. As Alex and Callum grow closer despite the enormous obstacles to their love, the dangers mount until they must risk everything.

About S.C. Ransom

Sue Ransom is a senior head-hunter, but on the way to work and in the evenings she's a writer: she wrote Small Blue Thing, her debut novel, as a birthday present for her daughter, and she composed it mostly on her BlackBerry. Serendipity led her to Nosy Crow, and she's now busy writing her second book and planning the third in what will be a trilogy. She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Surrey.


Small Blue Thing is the first book in a series by author S.C.Ransom. Small Blue Thing is set in London, and follows the story of animal-lover Alex, who, while attempting to rescue a swan, discovers a mysterious bracelet, which leads her to Callum, a beautiful boy who she falls instantly in love with.

The story centres on Alex who finds an exquisitely unique bracelet in the river Thames. She fishes it out and takes it home but soon discovers that the bracelet has some strange powers. It enables her to communicate with the river's dead which leads her to the handsome and mysterious Callum. Callum and Alex fall in love but they cannot be together because Callum is a dirge - destined to live on the other side and feed off peoples' happy memories to keep his own misery at bay. Alex is determined to find a way in which they can be together properly but when Callum's sister Catherine appears, she has to decide who she can trust and who holds her future happiness in their hands.

The suspense builds beautifully, leaving you trying to figure out who is good and who is bad while desperately wanting everything to work out well. A nice cliff-hanger ending too - be warned, you'll want to read the next one in the series!

BOOK REVIEW: The Dead I Know

Title: The Dead I Know

Author: Scot Gardner

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $19.99

ISBN: 9781742373843

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 216


Aaron Rowe has dreams he can't explain, and memories he can't recover. But if he doesn't discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up. A potent, intense, psychodrama that will keep you gripped to the very last page.

You wake in the middle of the night, your arms and feet pinned by strong hands. As you thrash your way to consciousness, a calm voice says, 'Steady. We're here to help.' Your mind registers a paramedic, a policeman, an ambulance. You are lying on the lookout at Keeper's Point, the lookout Amanda Creen supposedly threw herself off. And you have absolutely no idea how you got there.

Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep. He has dreams he can't explain, and memories he can't recover. Death doesn't scare him - his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn't discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up.

'I have never read a book more gripping, nor a book more triumphantly alive. I love how it haunts me still. I swear, I will never forget The Dead I Know'. - John Marsden

About Scot Gardner

Scot wasn't born reading and writing; in fact he left school in year eleven to undertake an apprenticeship in gardening with the local council. He has worked as a waiter, masseur, delivery truck driver, home dad, counsellor and musician.

Scot's first fiction for young readers, One Dead Seagull, was published after he attended a writing camp and writing conferences with John Marsden. His many books since include Burning Eddy, shortlisted for a CBCA award and for the NSW Premier's Literary Award, and Gravity, shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Award.

Scot lives with his wife and one of three children (the others are grown-ups), a poodle and some chooks in the bush in Eastern Victoria. He divides his time between writing and teaching tech and welfare at a secondary college in Gippsland.


The Dead I Know is the first book I’ve read by author Scot Gardner, so I did not know what to expect and what the style would be like. This book was a well written who dunnit style book about a guy names Aaron Rowe, who has a problem with sleep walking, waking up in strange places.

This book was extremely fast paced and a real page turner with some pretty interesting characters and settings. While many stories using dreams as a method of introducing spice into the story, this one tastefully utilizes this mechanism and really adds to the overall style of the novel.

Great read, have to pick up some other books by Scot now.

BOOK REVIEW: Murder at Mansfield Park

Title: Murder at Mansfield Park

Author: Lynn Shepherd

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $22.99

ISBN: 9781742376110

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 372


A superb retelling of the Jane Austen novel in which Mansfield Park's meek heroine Fanny Price is recast as a forthright, ambitious, scheming and downright untrustworthy gold digger ...


'...a clever retelling of the classic, seamlessly blending Austen's original dialogue with her own, while introducing the new character of Charles Maddox, a "thief taker"...' Good Reading

'... for those looking to relive the pleasures of Austen, rather than see them savaged.' Sunday Age

Murder at Mansfield Park is a witty and clever reimagining of Jane Austen's much-loved novel Mansfield Park. But in this Mansfield Park, things have changed ...

Formerly Austen's meekest heroine, Fanny Price has become not only an heiress to an extensive fortune but also a heartless, scheming minx. Hiding her true character behind a demure facade, Fanny is indeed betrothed to Edmund, now Mrs Norris's stepson; but does she really love him? Henry and Mary Crawford arrive in the country ready to wreak havoc with their fast city ways, but this time Mary steps forward in the best Austen style to become an unexpected heroine.

Meanwhile, tragedy strikes the safe and solid grand house as it becomes the scene of violence. Every member of the family falls under suspicion and the race begins to halt a ruthless murderer.

Funny and sharp, Murder at Mansfield Park is simply a delight to read.

About Lynn Shepherd

Murder at Mansfield Park is Lynn Shepherd's first novel and was published in the UK and the US to wonderful reviews. Lynn, a successful copywriter, studied English at Oxford in the 1980s and returned in 2003 to do her doctorate.


Murder at Mansfield Park is a brilliantly written story in the style of Jane Austen.I liked the characterizations in thisbook, which are wonderful, storyline is clever and Shepherd has very ingeniously taken the original and shifted it into its own weird universe. Lots of these Austen prequels and sequels never work for me with a few notable exceptions. this one, i thoroughly enjoyed. Ms. Shepherd has a Ph.D. in English literature from Oxford, and it shows. Her command of the vocabulary of the Austen era is pitch-perfect. She also scatters learned references throughout, lifting entire sentences and paragraphs not just from MP but from the other novels, as well as from the letters and from Austen biography.

Shepherd has, in writing such a clever, entertaining, humorous, and enjoyable tale, achieved the impossible task of tempting a once-bitten-twice-shy reader such as myself back through the ominous gates of Mansfield Park. She has successfully taken a story which could send even the most faithful Regency readers straight to sleep and turned it into a fast-paced, witty, brilliant tale that all Jane Austen fans will praise as the perfect answer to Jane's Fanny Price.

BOOK REVIEW: Liberator

Title: Liberator

Author: Richard Harland

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $19.99

ISBN: 9781742373423

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 452


This brilliant sequel to Worldshaker follows the changed fortunes of Col and Riff as the juggernaut rolls on. Now the Filthies are in charge, and it's the Upper Decks people who are victimised and reduced to a ghetto-like existence.

The battle continues as the Filthies take over the juggernaut Worldshaker and rename it Liberator. A world of deception and betrayal ensues as the revolution turns radical. With Col now in the minority with his Swank friends, what will happen to his relationship with Riff, as they both face the reality of a world changing its shape forever?

Praise for Worldshaker:

'Harland has constructed a world with overtones of the Victorian era, when capitalism was at its most aggressive, and taken us hopefully to a brighter dawn.' Viewpoint

'Harland has created a wonderfully brooding world that is part Dickens, part steam-punk and will appeal to those twelve and up who like their fantasy a little on the dark side.' Readings Monthly

About Richard Harland

Richard Harland was born in Huddersfield, England, and migrated to Australia in 1970. After several years as a singer, songwriter and poet, he became a lecturer in English at the University of Wollongong. He resigned to become a full-time writer in 1997. He now lives in Figtree, eighty kilometres south of Sydney.

His first book was the comic horror novel The Vicar of Morbing Vyle, which has since become a cult classic. In 1997 he began the Eddon and Vail series, which combines a science fiction world with detective thriller stories: The Dark Edge, Taken By Force and Hidden From View. Since then he has published a number of fantasy novels for younger readers, horror fiction and SF short stories, two of which won Aurealis awards. Worldshaker was his first novel with Allen and Unwin.


Liberator by Richard Harland is the sequel to Worldshaker and in the steampunk genre of writing. Col and Riff continue doing battle as rebellion continues within the Liberator and beyond as the other Imperialist juggernauts suspicion about life on Liberator threatens their empires too.

Harland’s characters are quite entertaining and we get to understand the alternate universe he has created a bit more in this sequel.

I really enjoyed this book.

BOOK REVIEW: Trouble Twisters

Title: Trouble Twisters

Author: Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $15.99

ISBN: 9781742373980

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 324


The first book of a major fantasy series from New York Times bestselling authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams, in which twins find that they must act as wards against a threatening evil.


'Come to us, Troubletwisters, join us ... welcome, most welcome!'

When their home mysteriously explodes around their ears, twins Jack and Jaide are sent to stay with a grandmother they have never met, in a town they have never heard of. Portland might seem boring and quiet, but it soon becomes apparent that Grandma X is more than a little eccentric, and there are very strange happenings in the town. Talking cats, swarms of cockroaches, a miniature tornado trashing their room - the twins are about to find out what it means to be a troubletwister!

Something growing

Something read

Something living

Someone dead

About Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Garth Nix is best known for his award-winning fantasies Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen and the seven books of the Keys to the Kingdom series. His books have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, the Guardian, the Sunday Times and the Australian. Garth lives in Sydney with his wife and two sons.

Sean Williams is best known for his award-winning space opera series and is the number-one New York Times-best-selling author of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. He is also the author of the Broken Land trilogy for young adults and the Books of the Change. Sean lives in Adelaide with his wife and family.


Troubletwisters is the first in a new series by authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams. The book will appeal to YA fantasy addicts, such as fans of Suzanne Collins' Gregor the Overlander series. Troubletwister is a enjoyable read about twins Jack and Jaide as they embark on a journey that changes their lives. Forced to go live with their Grandma after their house is ruined and that’s where the story really gets going. They two characters are just fantastic, they are very likeable. They are very swift in their instincts and soon realise that there is something about Grandma X and they are resolute to find out what. Jaide is the more outgoing type always trying to get Jack to explore when they know they shouldn't.

This is one great first book in a series that I can see being very popular with the YA market.

Friday, April 29, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Desires of the Dead

Title: Desires of the Dead

Author: Kimberley Derting

Publisher: Headline

RRP: $14.99

ISBN: 9780755378968

Release Date: April 2011

Pages: 368


Kimberly Derting is back with a follow-up to The Body Finder, and there's more paranormal suspense and romance in store for Violet and Jay.

Violet and Jay are finally dating, but adjusting to the new relationship is not as easy as Violet anticipated. Especially when she has to split Jay's time and attention with his new best friend, Mike, and Mike's pesky younger sister - who happens to be obsessed with Jay. Meanwhile, when Violet's special abilities lead her to the body of a young boy, her tip to the police puts her on the radar of the FBI. Violet tries to fend off the FBI's questions while maintaining the semblance of a normal life, but somebody's leaving her threatening notes and an echo around Mike's house reinforces that all is not right. Violet is forced to admit that perhaps the only people who can help her figure it out are the very people she's desperate to avoid - the FBI.


Kimberly Derting is a full-time writer who lives in Western Washington state with her husband and three children. DESIRES OF THE DEAD is her second novel.


Desires of the Dead is the second book in The Body Finder series by author Kimberly Derting. In this sequel to "The Body Finder" the missing dead are still calling to Violet and they want to be found. Just when Violet finally begins to piece her life back together after the 'serial killer' fiasco she discovers the body of a young boy and this catches the attention of the FBI. See, the FBI is onto her, they know there's something different about her and they are catching on quick. Now that Jay's her boyfriend and not so much her best friend anymore, she begins to struggle with what she can and can't trust him with. Then she stumbles upon Mike, a transfer student and Jay's new "attached at the hip" friend.

In Desires of the Dead, we're back in Violet's life after she escaped a near death experience with a serial killer. Even though a bit shaken, Violet is still enjoying her life with her yummy new boyfriend, Jay. I was so excited to see Jay again. Their relationship is such a deep one seeing as these two have been friends since they were children, and truly do care and love one another.

Violet's sense of echoes and the secret she has kept well hidden captures the interested of a woman named Sarah from the FBI after Violet places an anonymous call about a body she had came across.

If you enjoyed The Body Finder, you will easily devour Desires of the Dead. The book is a superb paranormal crime-thriller meets YA romance.

BOOK REVIEW: Silent Mercy

Title: Silent Mercy

Author: Linda Fairstein

Publisher: Little Brown

RRP: $32.99

ISBN: 9781408702420

Release Date: March 2011

Pages: 400


'Sex crimes, torture, hate - it's got Alex Cooper written all over it.'

When the burnt headless body of a young woman is found on the steps of a Baptist Church in Harlem, Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper is one of the first on the shocking scene. Alex has seen some gruesome crimes committed in New York, but the barbarity of this latest discovery leaves her nauseous.

With NYPD cop Mike Chapman, Alex begins to investigate, but before long another woman is slaughtered and found on the steps of a Catholic church in Little Italy; her throat slashed and her tongue cut out.

It becomes clear there is a zealous serial killer on the loose. Now Alex and Mike must keep one step ahead of a religious fanatic bent on silencing the women he believes are bringing shame to his beliefs - before he kills anyone else.


For three decades, Linda Fairstein served in the office of the New York County District Attorney, where she was Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit. In 2010 she was presented with the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers.


Silent Mercy is the is the thirteenth book in the Crime series by Linda Fairstein. Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, or Coop as she’s known, of the New York's District Attorney's Office becomes involved in crimes that may have their origins in religious or female bias. Silent Mercy is set in Manhattan and revolves around its old religious institutions.

A young woman is found murdered on the steps of Mount Neboh Baptist Church. She has not only been murdered but decapitated, and her head is missing. Not long after her head is discovered at St. John the Devine Church. The situation does not get any better when another woman's body is found on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Coop with the help of Detective Mike Chapman begin to look into the case and find that there may be a link in that both women were very strong in their beliefs in the role of women in religious affairs. n fact, one of the women was an ordained Catholic priest who had been excommunicated.

Coop and Mike break all the rules in running down the murderer. The conclusion takes place in a deserted island in Buzzards Bay called Penikese Island. The island was once the home for delinquent boys and a leper colony.

This book is a great read.

BOOK REVIEW: The Windup Girl

Title: The Windup Girl

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

Publisher: Orbit

RRP: $21.99

ISBN: 9780356500539

Release Date: Dec 2010

Pages: 544


An action-packed adventure and a politically acute commentary on the near-future.

In Thailand, Anderson Lake is a calorie company man working for big business. Under cover as a factory manager, he combs Bangkok's street markets in search of near-extinct foodstuffs. And there he meets the Windup Girl, the beautiful and enigmatic Emiko - now abandoned to the streets. She is one of the underclass of New People, creche-grown and bred to suit the whims of the rich. Engineered as slaves, soldiers and toys, they are seen as soulless by some and as devils by others. As Lake becomes more drawn to Emiko, conspiracies breed within his working life becomes and the politics of a troubled age threaten to spiral out of control. The pressures mount as what he should do conflicts with what he wants to do, threatening to bring down his world.

So what happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits? And could bio-terrorism's genetic drift force mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?


Paolo Bacigalupi's writing has been nominated for the Nebula and Hugo awards and his YA novel, SHIP BREAKER, was shortlisted for the National Book Award. He lives in Western Colorado with his wife and son.


The Windup Girl is set in Bangkok in a near future dystopia. The city now houses many displaced Chinese refugees from a Malaysia ruined by fundamentalist muslim fanatics. Bangkok itself is only kept from drowning by engineering and technology.

This is a post-oil world, with very little fuel run technology enduring, and as the petrol moguls kept technology such as solar power off the market in current day, there is not much in the way of alternate power supplies. As a substitute, power is provided by human labour and genetically engineered highly efficient animals pouring kinetic energy into springs, which then can be used to power machines and even computers.

The rapidly mutating diseases caused by genetic engineering meddling and conflict kill many - with mainly the calorie companies having the resources to combat their own hellish offspring, if they care to. Mutated cats with no real predators except humans have also destroyed a lot of the food chain.

The main character is Emiko, a windup girl, a being genetically engineered to serve and please. Emiko is an unwitting participant in a series of sinister plans to destroy Thailand's long-held independence by calorie men. Emiko fights an inner battle to understand what she is, and if she is human or just a created mutant.

This book is quite entertaining and worth a read.

BOOK REVIEW: Ember and Ash

Title: Ember and Ash

Author: Pamela Freeman

Publisher: Hachette Australia

RRP: $19.99

ISBN: 9780733624223

Release Date: March 2011

Pages: 528


From the critically acclaimed author Pamela Freeman comes a new stand-alone tale of loss, fear and desire.

Two peoples have been fighting over the same land for a thousand years. Invaders crushed the original inhabitants, and ancient powers have reluctantly given way to newer magics. But Ember was to change all this with a wedding to bind these warring people together - until her future goes up in flames.

Ember s husband-to-be is murdered by a vengeful elemental god, who sees peace as a breach of faith. Set on retribution, she enlists the help of Ash, son of a seer. Together they will pit themselves against elementals of fire and ice in a last attempt to end the conflicts that have scarred their past.

They must look to the present, as old furies are waking to violence and are eager to reclaim their people.


BLOOD TIES, released in 2007, was Pamela Freeman's first novel for adults. It was followed a year later by the second book in The Castings Trilogy, DEEP WATER. FULL CIRCLE, the final in the trilogy, was published in 2009. Pamela is also an award-winning writer for young people, and is best known for the children's fantasies VICTOR'S QUEST and VICTOR'S CHALLENGE, and for THE BLACK DRESS, an inspired biography of Mary MacKillop's early years, which won the New South Wales Premier's History Award in 2006. She has a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney, where she has also lectured in creative writing. She lives in Sydney with her husband and their son.


Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman is a fantasy set in the Last Domain of the Eleven Domains. The fantasy setting revolves around the Great Powers: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Forest and Ice. The book starts off with a catastrophic wedding followed by a poignant quarrel between the central character and one of the Great powers. As a result fires all over the domain are smothered and cannot be re-lit.

The magic in this novel is natural, based on Powers of environment elements, which isn't exactly new, but the author does a good job of making each elemental terrifying in its own way.

Freeman also creates a complex set of layers of political/social/religious belief in the story. The main characters come from a background of two peoples, one of which has been subsumed by the other. They have taken some of their beliefs underground, as they are forbidden to share certain knowledge with non Travelers, and this influences heavily on the plot of the novel.

There was a mixed bag of other supporting characters in the book, who all added significant flavour to the storyline. Ember is feisty, and marked by the element of Fire, and Ash by Air. The secondary characters were all interesting as well, each having their own driving motivations and story lines that were also fulfilled throughout the novel.

BOOK REVIEW: Starman: David Bowie – The Definitive Biography

Title: Starman: David Bowie – The Definitive Biography

Author: Paul Trynka

Publisher: Sphere

RRP: $35.00

ISBN: 9781847442390

Release Date: March 2011

Pages: 448


David Bowie is one of our greatest icons. This is the definitive biography.

David Bowie - famously described as rock's greatest chameleon - has lived an extraordinary life. From his early years in post-war, bombed out Brixton to a troubled later childhood in Bromley, to the decadent glamour of Ziggy Stardust to his controversial Berlin period, Bowie's life has been filled with drama. One of our most fascinating stars, his story has never been satisfactorily told until now.

Paul Trynka has interviewed over two hundred friends, ex-lovers and fellow musicians in order to write the definitive biography of Bowie. The result is a compelling, intimate and revealing book that will appeal to Bowie's millions of fans around the world.


Paul Trynka is the former editor of Mojo. He lives in South London with his wife and son.


Starman is a very well written biography of the legendary icon, David Bowie. I’ve read a couple of books about Bowie over the years and thought I’d heard everything there was to know about Bowie. Starman has some interesting details revealed through the numerous people who have played a part in the life of this musician and actor.

The book covers from Bowie’s childhood to the last few years, so there is some pretty current information as well as the classic years.

Great and very informative book if you are a Bowie fan.

BOOK REVIEW: The Blackhouse

Title: The BlackHouse

Author: Peter May

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

RRP: $32.99

ISBN: 9781849163859

Release Date: 01/04/11

Pages: 432


The Isle of Lewis is the most remote, harshly beautiful place in Scotland, where the difficulty of existence seems outweighed only by people's fear of God. But older, pagan values lurk beneath the veneer of faith, the primal yearning for blood and revenge. When a brutal murder on the island bears the hallmarks of a similar slaying in Edinburgh, police detective Fin Macleod is dispatched north to investigate. But since he himself was raised on Lewis, the investigation also represents a journey home and into his past. Each year the island's men perform the hunting of the gugas, a savage custom no longer necessary for survival, but which they cling to even more fiercely in the face of the demands of modern morality. For Fin the hunt recalls a horrific tragedy, which after all this time may have begun to demand another sacrifice. The Blackhouse is a crime novel of rare power and vision. Peter May has crafted a page-turning murder mystery that explores the darkness in our souls, and just how difficult it is to escape the past.

Author Information

An award-winning journalist at twenty-one in his native Scotland, Peter May left newspapers for television and screenwriting, creating three prime-time British drama series, and accruing more than 1000 television credits before moving to France to concentrate on writing novels. He is the author of fifteen novels including two series: The Enzo Files and The China Thillers. May won the French Prix Intramuros in 2007 for Cadavres Chinois a Houston (Snakehead) and is the only Westerner to become an honorary member of the Chinese Crime Writers Association. The Blackhouse was published in French as L'Ile des Chasseurs D'Oiseaux before publication in English.


The Blackhouse is fifteenth novel by Scottish author Peter May and the first book in a planned trilogy called “The Lewis Trilogy”. The Blackhouse is a very dark and sombre crime/mystery novel set in the Scottish archipelago, Outer Hebrides. The opening of the book has some pretty horrific murders that are quite graphic and continues into the descriptive autopsy.

The main character Fin Macleod is a detective with his roots back on the island. Another common element is the murder he is investigated in Edinburgh is very similar to the recent one back on the Isle of Lewis. This is the main reason for his travelling back to Lewis to assist in the investigation of the current killing.

Once back on Lewis, Macleod’s story flicks from past to present with recollections of his childhood on the Isle. The character is well developed in this first novel and really sets the reader up for wanting to read the next two instalments in the trilogy.

If you like high detailed crime/mysteries then you’ll enjoy this one.

BOOK REVIEW: This Green Hell

Title: This Green Hell

Author: Greig Beck

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

RRP: $32.99

ISBN: 9781405040495

Release Date: 01/04/11


Deep in the steaming jungles of Paraguay, Dr Aimee Weir is in trouble.

The petro biologist has found what she was looking for – a unique microorganism in a natural gas deposit – but it proves to be more destructive than anyone could have imagined. A contagion is striking down all in its wake. The camp is quarantined, but workers start to vanish in the night.

Is it fear of contamination – or has something far more lethal surfaced?

Alex Hunter – code name Arcadian – and his Hot zone All-Forces Warfare Commandos must be dropped in to the disaster area to do whatever it takes to stem the outbreak. It has been a year since Aimee has seen Alex; she thought she had left him for good. Now she needs him more than ever.

In the sweltering jungles of South America, the Arcadian must learn to master his violent inner demons for this rescue mission to have any chance of success. But can he survive long enough to confront the danger that threatens the very survival of mankind?

Author Information

Greig Beck grew up across the road from Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. His early days were spent surfing, sun baking and reading science fiction on the sand. He then went on to study computer science, immerse himself in the financial software industry and later received an MBA. Greig is the director of a software company but still finds time to write and surf. He lives in Vaucluse, Sydney with his wife, son and an enormous black German shepherd.

This Green Hell is Greig's third novel, and he is currently working on his fourth.


This Green Hell is the third book by author Greig Beck, but the first one I’ve read by him. Always a real treat to pick up a book by an author you haven’t heard of before and read with no preconceived ideas about the writing style or formula of writing. It’s even more of a treat when you find a new author to add to your favourite list, as I’ve done with Greig Beck.

This Green Hell is set in South America, Paraguay. We are given a background to the setting with the Jesuit missionaries around the late 1600’s and the disappearance of these people. The story then shoots back to present day where an expedition of scientists have discovered a new micro-organism that may just be the alternate to gas. Unfortunately, the discovery has catastrophic results, infecting any human or animal that comes in contact with it.

This is where the action really begins with the introduction of the rescue team, with all of their high tech weapons and scientific methods.

Overall, the plot was excellent and fast paced. The characters were well developed and crafted, as was the dialogue.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Demon Collector

Title: The Demon Collector

Author: Jon Mayhew

Publisher: Bloomsbury

RRP: $19.99

ISBN: 9781408803943

Release Date: March 2011

Pages: 432


Edgy Taylor sees demons when nobody else can. Edgy thinks he is insane and expects to be carried off any minute. He is a prime collector, wandering the streets of London collecting dog muck for the tannery. The only thing Edgy is good at is setting and solving riddles, and evading his brutal and abusive master. One night, when his master seems genuinely intent on killing Edgy, Professor Envry Janus intervenes. Envry takes him to the Royal Society of Daemonologie where Edgy will now live. It is here, though, that Edgy discovers chance had nothing to do with their meeting, and that instead he holds the key to a deadly demon prophecy.


The Demon Collector is the sequel to Jon Mayhew’s first book in this series, Mortlock. Mayhew has toned down the book in comparison to the first book, but still maintained a great action-packed adventure with supernatural elements.

As with Mortlock, The Demon Collector contains the same macabre humour, much of it revolving around the various demons that Mayhew has created. There are also good and bad demons, but sometimes the line between the two can be very fine and easily crossed, providing many twists and turns as the story progresses. I like how Mayhew gives demons a weakness, they cannot resist a riddle and this often leads to their downfall with Edgy being something of an expert in this area, we are treated to a number of really entertaining scenes where he verbally 'does battle' with a number of these demonic creatures.

I enjoyed this sequel as much as the first book by Mayhew and look foward to the next instalment.


Eve: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. I’ve read the first three books in the Mortal Instruments series and really enjoyed them. I’ve also recently heard about the Mortal Instruments series being made into a movie, did you think that was a possibility when you started writing this series?
Cassandra: I really didn’t. I thought, this book is set in New York — the most expensive place to film — and it would contain a gigantic amount of special effects. No one will ever make this into a movie! But the joy of imagination is that it has an unlimited effects budget. And one of the great things about movies is that if someone comes along and falls in love with your books, they can make a movie out of anything.

Eve: Book 4 in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Fallen Angels came out this month, how has it been received in the market so far?
Cassandra: I’ve been really gratified by its success not just at home in the US, but all over the world — it’s hit bestseller lists in Ireland, in the UK, and in Australia and NZ. I wanted to make the books accessible to everyone by creating a worldwide mythology, and I hope that it resonates with people in all different countries.

Eve: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?
Cassandra: I have a word count per day. I write 2500 words. It depends if it’s an easy day for writing or a hard one. It can take an hour, or eight.

Eve: Do you have any ideas for books not in the Mortal Instruments series planned for the near future?
Cassandra: Yes, I have an idea for a high fantasy series, and for a realistic fiction book based in part on Pride and Prejudice, cowritten with another YA author.

Eve:  Where did the inspiration for The Mortal Instruments series come from?
Cassandra: I got the idea years ago - I was in a tattoo shop in Manhattan's East Village when the idea came to me that it would be fun to write about characters who used magical tattoos to fight monsters. The characters
came just after that. It took about two or three years to develop that into a consistent magic system and a book.  

Eve:  How did the prequel, Clockwork Angel and the 4th book come about? Was the series originally just going to be a trilogy?
Cassandra:  I knew I wanted to write a second series of Shadowhunter books set in London, because London is one of my favorite cities — and why work so hard creating a demon-fighting force that spans the globe if you’re not going to visit new locations? I hadn’t nailed down a plotline though, until I was in London crossing Blackfriars Bridge and I had this sudden strong image in my head of a girl and a boy, in the period costume of the mid-Victorian era, standing on the bridge at night — and from one end of the bridge, unseen by them, was an army of clockwork creatures approaching. It was very eerie, and I was surprised to realize that the story was going to be historical. I tried to update it, but it just wouldn’t budge —  as the characters and the tale grew, I knew these people were the ancestors of the characters in the TMI books and that their story would contain elements that would enchance an explain later events.

Eve: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favorite books are?
Cassandra: Dreamhunter, by Elizabeth Knox, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by Emily Lockhart, Paper Towns by John Green. Right now I’m reading Shine by Lauren Myracle.

Eve: Who is your favorite character in Mortal Instruments and why?
Cassandra: It’s hard to have a favorite, but I always say Simon is the most like me and Magnus is the most fun to write.

Eve: If you were stranded on a desert island, what five authors would you like to have as companions and why?
Cassandra: Holly Black, since we’re already good friends. Sarah Rees Brennan; she’s very considerate, and would probably let the rest of us eat her if we had to. Maureen Johnson and John Green would keep me amused with sarcastic comments. Scott Westerfeld is very inventive and I believe would go all Man vs. Wild for us.

Eve: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.

FICTION: Send Me a Postcard by Allen Kopp

Since Paul’s mother lost her job at the hospital, she’s not the same anymore.  She stays in bed a lot of the time during the daylight hours, something she never did before. If she’s not in bed, she’s sitting in front of the TV in her bathrobe smoking cigarettes and watching soap operas and game shows with the sound turned all the way down. He stands in the doorway looking at her and she doesn’t seem to know he’s there until she sees his shadow on the wall.
            “What are you doing?” she asks, craning her neck around to look at him. “You creep around the house like a thief.”
“I’m just looking at you,” he says. “What’s for dinner?”
“Oh, is it time for dinner?” she asks, looking at the clock. “I didn’t think it was that late.”
He goes into the kitchen and fixes himself a peanut butter sandwich. He is glad to see she has been to the store and bought some fresh bread while he was at school. He puts the sandwich on a plate and goes back into the living room where she is.
“Just help yourself to whatever you can find in the kitchen,” she says. “I don’t feel like cooking dinner.”
“Did you eat anything?” he asks.
“I don’t have any appetite,” she says. “I’ll have something later.” She reaches for her pack of Lucky Strikes and takes one out and lights it and inhales deeply.
He looks at her skeptically but she doesn’t know it. “Smoking is bad for you,” he says.
“So I’ve heard.”  
“I’m not ever going to smoke.”
“Bully for you.”
“How about if we go to a movie tonight? There’s a western at the Criterion and a comedy at the Gem.”
“How about if we stay at home and watch TV? There’s a western on one channel and a comedy on another one, and you don’t have to pay to see them. I’m not made out of money, you know.”
He marvels at how mothers always say they’re not made out of money, but he says nothing because he doesn’t want to argue. He would someday like to see a mother made out of money, though. That must be a sight worth seeing.
“I have to write a book report,” he says.
“How lovely for you.”
“Do you want to help me?”
“What’s the book?”
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.”
“Isn’t that kind of a grown-up book for eighth grade?”
“I read grown-up books all the time.”
“Oh, yes, I forgot. You’re already quite the little man, aren’t you?”
“I chose that book to read from the list. I’m the only person in the class who read it.”
“Isn’t that about the French Revolution or something?”
“Yes, they’re killing all the aristocrats. They’re mad at them because the king and his wife are rich and they don’t care that the peasants are starving, so the peasants want to kill all the aristocrats, whether they’ve done anything wrong or not. Do you know how they kill them?”
“Let me guess,” she says. “They cut off their heads with a thing with a big blade that drops down.”
“It’s called a guillotine. It was invented by a Dr. Guillotine. He was a Frenchman. They make them stick their heads through a hole and tie their hands behind their backs and then they let the blade drop down and wham! it slices off their heads.”
“Sounds divine,” she says. “I’ll be sure and add that book to my reading list.”
“They say it doesn’t hurt, but I don’t know how having your head cut off could not hurt.”  
“Why don’t you try it some time and let me know?”
“I saw Daddy when I was walking to school today.”
“He drove past in a black car.”
“It must have been somebody else. His car is blue. Was it a new car?”
“I don’t know.”
“You can tell a new car from an old one, can’t you?”
“I think it was a new car.”
“Well, the next time you see him tell him to throw some of that money our way that he’s spending on a new car.”
“I wouldn’t ask him for money.”
“Why not? He’s your father, isn’t he? You wouldn’t be on this earth if it wasn’t for him, so he’s supposed to pay your way. That’s the way it works.”
He notices how many of his conversations with his mother always come around to the subject of money. He tries to steer her in another direction. 
“Are you still looking for a job?” he asks.
“Off and on,” she says. “If it’s any of your business.” 
“Do you want me to read the want ads to you? I’ll bet there are some good jobs in there.”
“If I wanted to read the want ads, don’t you think I could read them myself? You’re just a two-bit punk and you don’t know anything.”
’You’re just a two-bit punk and you don’t know anything,’” he says, in exact imitation of her voice. 
“You’re getting just a little too big for your britches!”
’You’re getting just a little too big for your britches.’”
“Stop it!” she says.
’Stop it!’”
“Don’t you know you’re driving me crazy?”
’Don’t you know you’re driving me crazy?’
“Do you want me to get up from here and come over there and slap you silly?”
“No, I don’t,” he says solemnly, using his own voice again.
“You remind me more of your father every day.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do about it?”
“Run away from home and join the circus. You could be one of their freaks.”
He knows she’s only teasing him, but remarks like that hurt him a little, he has to admit. It’s as if she doesn’t want him around her anymore.
“When I’m old enough, I’m going to join the navy.”
“Good for you,” she says. “Serve your country. See the world. Send me a postcard.”
A man and woman are kissing on the TV. Their noses are pressed together.
“Can we change channels?” he asks.
“No!” she says. “I’m watching this!
He goes into the kitchen and gets an apple and goes out the back door with it and around the house and sits on the front steps, between the bushes that grow on both sides. He throws the apple up in the air a couple of times and catches it and then takes a bite out of it. The juice is running down his chin when he sees a black car pull up to the curb in front of the house, the same black car he saw that morning.
Somebody in the car motions to him. Fascinated, he stands up, throws down the apple, and crosses the lawn toward the car.
“Hello, son!” his father says brightly, rolling down the window.
“Did you get a new car?” he asks. He can’t think of anything else at the moment to say.
“No, it’s a friend’s car. I’m just borrowing it. How are you?”
“I’m all right. When are you coming home?”
His father turns off the engine and puts both hands on the steering wheel. “I’m not,” he says. “How’s your mother?”
“She’s fine.”
“Don’t tell her I was here.”
“All she has to do is look out the window and she’ll know you’re here.”
“Well, this is just between you and me.” He reaches into his pocket and takes out some money and hands his son a twenty-dollar bill. “Get yourself something good to eat,” he says.
“Well, I just wanted to see you for a minute and see how you are. I’ve got to be going.” He reaches to start the engine again.
“Daddy, can I come and live with you?”
“No, I’m afraid that’s out the question right now. I’m staying with friends. We’ll talk about that later when I’m more settled.”
“Mother hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you. She loves you very much.”
“She’s crazy. She’s going to smoke herself to death and she doesn’t eat any food.”
“Well, she’s just going through a rough patch right now. You’ll understand when you’re older and not hold it against her.”
“I’m going to run away from home.”
“No, you’re not. You just stay put for now. We’ll talk more about a different kind of arrangement later, after things have settled down.”
He starts the engine and looks over his shoulder to see if any cars are coming. He makes a u-turn in the middle of the street and speeds off in the opposite direction from which he came with a little squeal of tires.
When Paul goes back into the house, his mother is waiting for him at the door.
“Who was that you were talking to?” she asks.
“Nobody. A man looking for the hospital.”
“That was a black car, wasn’t it?”
“I think it was.”
“Did he try to get you to get into the car with him?”
“Of course not.”
“Did you tell him how to get to the hospital?”
“I tried to.”
At ten o’clock that night his mother is still in front of the TV, but now she’s asleep with a bottle of gin on the table beside her. On the TV is a skinny old man in a tuxedo doing a tap dance in front of a wall of mirrors that reflect the people watching him.
He goes into his room and shuts the door, moving the bureau in front of the door so nobody can come in. He starts to work on his book report; writing it should be easy because he’s already read the book, but he can’t seem to concentrate. Luckily it’s not due for a few days.
He turns off the light, finding the dark comforting; it makes him feel safe. Far off in the distance he hears a siren. The wind is blowing against the house as if to blow up a rainstorm. He settles under the covers and sighs. The last thought he has before going to sleep is about the guillotine. He wonders if it really hurts or if it’s just like a whisper on the back of the neck. Of one thing, though, he is certain. He will never know for sure.