Review: The Soul of Harmony – Book 1: The Promise by Craig Rex Perry

THE SOUL OF HARMONYCedar Grove Books, which published the fun Draculiza, has another kids’ book out – The Soul of Harmony. It’s the first in a series about a young girl, Harmony Walker, and her family living in New York in the jazz age. Her father, Eazy Walker, is a horn player down on his luck. His luck’s about to change, after Harmony, playing with her friend Juan Carlos, accidentally breaks Eazy’s trumpet mouthpiece. Looking for a replacement, Harmony makes an unwise deal with a mysterious woman in exchange for a magical mouthpiece. After a year of fame and fortune, the woman shows up to collect her dues…

The Soul of Harmony is a gorgeous looking book. Craig Rex Perry’s artwork is striking, full of bold colours and dynamic layouts. There’s a real sense of movement and atmosphere.

The Promise is part one of a continuing story, so it ends on a cliffhanger after dealing with the main plot. There is a sneak peak of part two, Running Away with the Rhythm, at the back of the book, which is scheduled for release later this year.

Screenshot 2016-02-10 14.26.30Through text and image, The Promise unfolds at a satisfyingly swift pace. The power of the story is very much vested in the gorgeous art. Some tense changes in the text can feel muddling, though I found that when I read it aloud, the shifts felt like a natural part of spoken storytelling – throwing in the present tense to set scenes and heighten immediacy.

It’s a lively tale – a sumptuously illustrated musical adventure, full of action and suspense.

Goodreads Competition

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway for a copy of The Soul of Harmony – open until 5 March 2016

Buy The Soul of Harmony

The Books of Love: The ‘True Love’ Solution by Julie Bozza

Reviewed by Narrelle M Harris

true love solutionThe blurb…

Jules Madigan loves his family and he loves his job. The only thing he’s missing out on is a Happy Ever After, like the ones written by his favourite romance author Ewan Byge. While he’s waiting for that HEA, Jules indulges himself in buying Ewan’s old typewriter as memorabilia – before realising he’s been defrauded.

Through the fraud case, he makes friends with Police Constable Leonard Edgar – and through Leonard, Jules even gets to meet and work with Ewan Byge Himself! But the course of True Love never did run smooth, and soon Jules has to face some harsh realities.

The review…

Julie Bozza always writes a charming story, and The ‘True Love’ Solution is a fine example. Jules Madigan is a sweet character, whose naivete is nicely balanced with his integrity and the love and loyality he has for his family. He’s a bit goofy and easily swayed, but it’s easy to see why he’s of interest to both PC Leonard Edgar, the steady copper who investigates the fraud case, and the glamorous Ewan Byge, Jules’s favourite author, whom he comes to know during the course of the investigation.

The narrative is peppered with references to other works, including Philadelphia Story, from which the title is derived, Jane Austen and even the Harry Potter series.

Julie’s breezy style makes this a lovely light read, and of course the reader will be cheering for one of the men in Jules’s life while Jules is busy being dazzled by the entirely Wrong Man. In that regard, it’s not a matter of wondering who Jules will end up with but devouring the story to find out how he’s going to come to his senses!

The ‘True Love’ Solution has a wonderful, happy cast of characters outside the three protagonists as well. Jules’s father Archie is the dad we’d all like to have, and his sort-of-sister Jem has the slightly abrasive yet thoroughly loyal tough-love that siblings can display.

All up, The ‘True Love’ Solution is a light, fun, gentle, sweet read that dances its sprightly way to a lovely and satisfying conclusion. It’s a perfect pick-me-up if life has seemed a bit dark lately, and a cheerful confection if life’s good and you want to celebrate True Love, even if it does wobble off course sometimes.

Buy The ‘True Love’ Solution

Read more at Manifold Press

Other Manifold Press books reviewed on Mortal Words:

Other Julie Bozza books reviewed on Mortal Words:

The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.

Cover Reveal: The Adventure of the Colonial Boy

Colonial Boy v smlDrum roll…..

…and here is the cover for my newest book, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy! It’s a Holmes/Watson romance for new UK publisher, Improbable Press, and is due out around the end of March, although pre-orders and perhaps the e-book will be available earlier. I’ll make another announcement when those dates have been set!

The cover was created by Bob Gibson of StaunchDesign. Huge thanks go to Wendy C Fries, Craig Hilton and Tim Richards, too, for assistance in coming up with a workable concept!

The Blurb:

1893. Dr Watson, still in mourning for the death of his great friend Sherlock Holmes, is now triply bereaved, with his wife Mary’s death in childbirth. Then a telegram from Melbourne, Australia intrudes into his grief:

“Come at once if convenient.“

Both suspicious and desperate to believe that Holmes may not, after all, be dead, Watson goes as immediately as the sea voyage will allow. Soon Holmes and Watson are together again, on an adventure through Bohemian Melbourne and rural Victoria, following a series of murders linked by a repulsive red leech and one of Moriarty’s lieutenants.

But things are not as they were. Too many words lie unsaid between the Great Detective and his biographer. Too much that they feel is a secret.

Solve a crime, save a life, forgive a friend, rediscover trust and admit to love. Surely that is not beyond that legendary duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson?

*

About Improbable Press

Improbable PressImprobablePress specialises in Sherlock Holmes romance and erotica, across both Victorian, contemporary and other historical settings.

Wendy C Fries – author of The Day They Met and also known for her erotic fiction as Atlin Merrick – is the new imprint’s acquisition editor. She also wrote the Press’s first book, The Night They Met.

Upcoming titles at Improbable Press include the anthology A Murmuring of Bees (to which I am contributing) and Atlin Merrick’s second novel, The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes. I’m about to start work on a second book for the Press, tentatively titled Framework.

nightIt would be wonderful if you liked Improbable Press’s Facebook page to keep track of the books and release dates – and to let us know you’d like to read Sherlock Holmes romance erotica, both canon and contemporary.

Reviews: Monstrous Little Voices, Books 1 and 2

little voices2016 marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, and Abaddon Books is celebrating with the publication of five novellas set in the faerie worlds of Shakespeare, with characters both well-known and new.

The five interconnected stories are being published as e-books throughout the first quarter of the year, and will be released as a print volume.

I discovered this series because the first novella is by Foz Meadows, who announced the release of Coral Bones on social media, and I pounced.

So far, two of the novellas are out – and if this is how Monstrous Little Voices starts, the next three novellas are going to be fantastic.

Book 1: Coral Bones by Foz Meadows

coral-bones-cover

Coral Bones leads the charge, telling the story of what happened to The Tempest‘s Miranda after marrying the first man she ever met and being taken to a foreign court.

Miranda is even more oppressed at court than she ever was on the island. Instead of being manipulated (and made to sleep and forget against her will) by her father, she is now neglected by Ferdinand and mocked by his court for her unworldliness. Fortunately, Ariel is still her friend.

Between flashbacks showing their relationship, and Miranda’s present escape towards Illyria in the company of Puck, Meadows explores concepts of identity: both those imposed by others’ expectations and the struggle to express one’s own often changing and even fluid sense of self.

Meadows’ command of language in this story is gorgeous. It has cadences of Shakespeare without ever feeling like pastiche or at all clumsy. There’s elegance and beauty, humour and heartbreak, throughout. The wider negotiations of faerie, and the eternal torrid clashes between Tatiana and Oberon inform the plot, but for once, Miranda gets to make her own choices.

It’s a splendid start to Monstrous Little Voices.

Book 2: The Course of True Love by Kate Heartfield

true loveIf Coral Bones is a strong start, The Course of True Love takes the energy and pulls the series into an excellent second act. Here, the aging witch Pomona stumbles across a fairy garden and its glamoured prisoner: Vertumnus, the mortal Indian boy Tatiana raised and fought with Oberon over in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, now grown to venerable adulthood.

With her loyalties pulled in several directions – towards Duke Orsino, towards Hecate and Tatiana, even towards Sycorax and Caliban – Pomona’s actions see her and Vertumnus caught at the crux of an impending war between Duke Orsino, urged on by his wife Viola (Twelfth Night), and the fairy king, Oberon. Naturally, Tatiana has a hand in it.

Like Meadows, Heartfield explores notions of identity, as well as personal integrity. Of course, where fairies are involved, the resolution is likely to be both terribly complex and really very simple, and the reader is as suprised as the characters by the charming and clever denoument.

Both of these novellas are striking, beautifully written and wonderfully constructed, giving us views of a combined Shakespearean world where the courts of Tatiana and Oberon interact with human affairs. Miranda and Pomona – and even fairy folk like Puck and Vertumnus – seek self-understanding, purpose, and a place to belong where they can be their whole selves.

In short, these stories carry on the work of William Shakespeare – telling us ways of being human, with flair, elegance, and wit.

I can’t wait for 5 February, and the release of the third book in the series.

Buy Coral Bones

Buy The Course of True Love

cannons mouthPre-order the other books in Monstrous Little Voices series

Read more about Monstrous Little Voices at Abaddon Books.

Quintette of Questions: Atlin Merrick

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Atlin Merrick

night1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

The Night They Met came out 30 December 2015 and, as it was inspired by and follows The Day They Met, the title was rather forehead-slappingly obvious. Seriously, I slapped my forehead.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

Hmmmm…Watson would have to be Martin Freeman, no other actor. I would be content for Holmes to be Benedict Cumberbatch, Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, or Tom Hiddleston. Content she says. As if just barely managing to cope…

3. What five words best describe your story?

Reimagining two legendary characters’ meeting.

Or:

Friendship. Adventure. Belonging. And love.

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple?

My apologies for the predictability but whether seen as the best of friends or heartfelt lovers, the relationship of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes is justifiably legendary…and my favourite.

 5. What song always makes you cry?

I have no songs that make me cry but I’ll tell you a thing: I can’t read stories where John Watson or Sherlock Holmes truly suffer. It physically pains me. I love these fictional beings so much that their imaginary pain produces in me literal pain. I suppose if I were to put that feeling to music, it would be Sinéad O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2U.

 

About The Night They Met

Some things belong together, the one with the other, natural pairs.

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Holmes and Watson. Sherlock and John. Whether it’s in an empty house during the Blitz, a West London strip club in the 70s, or deep in the heart of a Hong Kong computer lab, the meeting of these two legendary men is inevitable.

Spanning one hundred and twenty-eight years, The Night They Met contains nineteen stories of that destiny. Of how a detective meets a doctor, of how they change each other in heart and mind.

Of how they fall in love.

About Atlin Merrick

sixsecretlovesAtlin Merrick’s next book will be The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes. Atlin, who also writes under the name Wendy C. Fries, is fascinated with London, writing, theatre, and lattes.

Buy The Night They Met

Paperback:

Ebook:

Review: Blood and Dust & The Big Smoke by Jason Nahrung

blood-dust-webWhen vampires and an Australian setting combine in the imagination of a great writer, you betcha I’m going to be there, reading the hell out of that thing.

I’m a little late to the party, mind you, since Jason Nahrung’s Blood and Dust somehow escaped my attention when it was originally published as a digital-only book with Xoum. Thank fang that Clan Destine Press pounced and published both Blood and Dust and its sequel, The Big Smoke, in 2015.

Nahrung, who wrote the excellent Salvage, sets the first of his ‘Vampires in the Sunburnt Country’ series in outback Queensland, the last place you’d ever expect to find rival gangs of vampires who are traditionally fatally sensitive to sunlight.

Kevin Matheson, a mechanic who works at his parents service station in the tiny and slowly wilting country town of Barlow’s Siding. But then a car pulls in, containing a policeman who isn’t, his dying partner and a body in the boot that, despite the steel sticking out of his chest, isn’t quite dead.

Things go from bad to personal apocalypse pretty quickly after that, with rival gangs having bloody shootout, and Kevin’s family caught in the middle. Kevin’s not the only one to die that day, but he’s the only one who crawls out of the earth, transformed.

Blood and Dust provides plenty of both as Kevin struggles to adjust to his new state, and to understand the deadly rivalry between the nomadic vampire bikers he’s fallen in with, and their rather more organised-crime-type vampire enemies from Brisbane. Kevin’s desperate to save the family he has left, and to survive in a world he doesn’t understand. He’s also determined to balance the books with Mira, the vampire who is trying to use him to trap the Night Riders and is a threat to his own family.

Nahrung brings his own touches to the ever-changing milieu of the vampire story. Here, blood is more than nourishment for vampires. It carries memories, and ways of linking the vampire to those from whom they drink; and especially those they drink dry. It’s a fabulous new take on both the addiction and the dangers of blood-sucking. The way that blood sharing can communicate not only memories but particular skills also leads to some very cool passages. Kevin might be the new vampire on the block, but he’s picking up some mad skills along the way.

The characters are complex and often surprising, both the vampires and their human ‘red-eyes’ who have extended life from blood sharing, but aren’t yet turned. Taipan, the first indigenous vampire character I’ve ever read, and Kevin’s maker, is fascinatingly complex and contradictory, as is Reece, the not-policeman and Mira’s favourite red-eye, who brought all this disaster down on Kevin’s head with his appearance at the servo.

Elements of Blood and Dust reminded me of Australian films of the 70s, depicting oppressive heat and simmering violence in the outback, though with a much broader (and very welcome) diversity. There’s a dash of Mad Max, a soucon of Wake in Fright, and maybe even a tiny taste of Thirst, though all transformed and written with Nahrung’s deft hand with dialogue and character.

The whole story barrels down its hot Queensland highway, full throttle, guns blazing, until its grim and bittersweet ending.

the-big-smoke-webFortunately, if, like me, you can’t wait to find out what happens next, The Big Smoke is already printed and awaiting your immediate perusal.

Picking up amost immediately after the last page of Blood and Dust, we find Kevin heading towards Brisbane and the reckoning he intends to have with those who have torn apart his life. Naturally, the course of true revenge never runs smooth. He and Reece are both dancing dangerously around enemies new and old, trying to find a way to win.

Just as Blood and Dust evokes the raw and violent Aussie films of the 70s, The Big Smoke, set in Brisbane and on the coast, has a feel of the more recent run of Australian films exploring urban violence, though with that air of organised crime rather than mere bogan thuggery. There are still gunfights aplenty, and the grittier battle for power between the rival city gangs. The politics are complicated and nobody can be trusted. Kevin’s put the wind up them all, with his recent successes despite his recent arrival, combined with his blood determination to make someone pay for all that he’s lost.

The story takes a couple of unexpected turns, and the ending is both unexpected and satisfying.

Obviously these books are a great read if you’re after the novelty of an Australian take on the vampire novel. They’re also gritty, action-packed dramas, filled with great, complex characters – not least of which are the rural Queensland landscape and the city of Brisbane.

Read more:

Buy Blood and Dust

Buy The Big Smoke

2015: A Reading Restrospective

Screenshot 2016-01-06 09.50.56I really like Goodreads. I love keeping track of the books I’ve read (and reread) just for my own interest.

My stats this year say this is the most books I’ve read in  a year since starting to keep track – 63! Looks impressive, and I’m pleased to see it’s a good mix of classic and contemporary work, reading in crime, romance, horror, fantasy, humour and graphic novels.

Twenty-nine of the books were written or edited by women. Of the books by blokes, most were either by PG Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle or the comic book team of Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, the guys behind Unshelved, a comic set in a public library. (I read 10 of their collected editions, having backed the digital publication of same in a Kickstarter.) And not to be too wedded to binary genders, I’ve added a lot of new writers to my lists this year, particularly in the anthologies I’ve read.

Highlights of the reading year

blackbirdsI seem to either have good luck in the books I choose to read, or I’m very easy to please, as I thoroughly enjoyed most of my reading this year.

I have my favourites of course, the cream on top of the creme de la creme: Treasure Island, which I read for the first time ever, and PG Wodehouse’s hilarious and extremely unreliable memoir, Bring on the Girls, co-written with Guy Bolton. A Pride of Poppies, an anthology of queer love stories set in WWI, was beautiful and touching and sometimes funny and sometimes so sad and all of it was amazing.

In non-fiction, I loved Ruth Goodman’s How To Be a Victorian for its insights, as I’ve been writing a book set in the era. I also finally got around to Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments, a book about the Milgram obedience experiments by Gina Perry, which I picked up years ago at Clunes Book Week. It uncovers the circumstances behind the experiments, how they led to stricter ethical guidelines for psychology studies and how they don’t really teach us anything that we’re told they teach us.

In crime, Livia Day’s The Blackmail Blend is a terrific short story and I must read the novels in the series, and Emma Viskic promises to be a great new Australian crimewriting talent with Resurrection Bay and her deaf protagonist, Caleb. I also loved Alison Goodman’s A New Kind of Death, an SF/crime hybrid, and I aim to read more of her work too.

I also finally read a Chuck Wendig novel, Blackbirds, and found it as profane and funny as I find his excellent blog, Terrible Minds. I’m looking forward to more of his work (I have three on the Kindle for 2016!)

The Day/Night They Met

nightAnd two of my very favourite books of the year? Companion pieces by the same author, Wendy C Fries. In Sherlock Holmes and John Watson – The Day They Met, Fries gives 50 new ways for the famous friends to have met for the first time, across eras from the Victorian to the modern day.

Writing as Atlin Merrick, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Night They Met the same author gives us 19 ways those two men met and fell in love. It’s the first Holmes/Watson romance to  come out of Improbable Press, and it’s a marvellous start for a publisher that aims to celebrate queer readings of the Holmes-and-Watson legend.

How else was my reading year broken up?

Twelfth Planet Press

cherryAmong the books by Australian women, I read the final three collections in the Twelve Planets series, Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love, The Female Factory by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett and Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin – all three showcasing remarkable talent in specfic and horror. Twelfth Planet Press always produces amazing books, and if you’ve missed this twelve-book series I recommend you hunt it down or get the books in digital format (including my own Showtime, number 5 in the series.)

The Classics

Adventures_of_sherlock_holmesAs part of my research for writing The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, a Holmes/Watson romance due out this year with Improbable Press, I reread the entire Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle, which is an education in going back to the source material.

The same could be said of my first-time reading of Treasure Island, which I’d only seen in screen versions before, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which I haven’t read since I was a kid. I also read a lot of PG Wodehouse, who is always a great comfort in times of stress, and finally a Jane Austen that wasn’t Pride and PrejudicePersuasion. (I began this year with Mansfield Park, which I didn’t particularly enjoy – I want to slap everyone in it. Do other people have this reaction?)

Forensics and True Crime

nutshellIn further pursuit of research for my Holmes/Watson novel, I also spent a lot of the year reading up about the history of forensics and other related non-fiction books, primarily The Nutshell Studies, The Science of Sherlock Holmes, the three volumes of The Century of the Detective by Jurgen Thorwald (The Marks of Cain about fingerprinting, Dead Men Tell Tales about forensic science and Proof of Poison about toxicology), now out of print – I was lucky enough to pick up two of them at Clunes and found the third on eBay.

I ended with A Very British Murder, by Lucy Worsley and based on her TV show about how murder became such a national obsession for the Brits.

Romance

poppiesI thought I’d read more romance this year, but perhaps it’s just that I have read a lot of books where romance is part of a crime plot or some other fusion. Besides Persuasion and the aforementioned The Night They Met, I also enjoyed the unconventional princess-in-the-tower story, Her Silent Oath by Julia Leijon, and some excellent queermance.

A Pride of Poppies, as also mentioned, was very moving, while Jane Elliot‘s Smoothie, an action-romance for a lesbian couple, was a lively read. Tyler Knoll’s Just for Fun by AB Gayle was just sheer silly-crazy fun.

How about you?

I hope your reading year was also filled with old favourites, new discoveries, unexpected knowledge and ideas to spark other reading or your own writing. Feel free to share your favourites in the comments!

Me and the British Library: A Love Affair

IMG_0477When I went to the UK in 2014, I arranged to spend a week there on my own while husband, Tim, did some travel writing research in Europe. A key activity for that week was to get access to the British Library’s collection.

I duly applied for a Reader’s Pass so I could use the reading rooms. That process could only be completed in the British Library itself, so I set aside a morning and took my paperwork in and walked out a relatively short time later with my reading card.

I proceeded, over that week, to spend six of the happiest hours of my life ever spent in a public building.

I had ordered in advance a bunch of documents on the Frost Fairs that used to take place on the Thames when it froze over. I ordered books on folklore, too, but the frost fair documents? Those?

The British Library gave me booklets published in 1814 that gave an account of the last Frost Fair. It gave me great, weathered scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings from the 18th and 19th centuries about earlier fairs, including much more mundane reports not of the fairs but of the cost to London’s poor who froze and starved and died in those harsh winters.

I was excited and engaged and I wrote pages and pages of notes (in pencil only, in a hardcover notebook used expressly for this purpose) for a planned novel in the Kitty and Cadaver universe.

IMG_1027Naturally, when I returned to London for a three week trip in September 2015, I made sure that I would get more use out of my favourite souvenir. I ordered a whole lot more books in advance – more on frost fairs and folklore for the Kitty book; a chunk of stuff on 13th century London for the same series; a bunch of things on Victorian life, clothing and steamships for The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, due out next year. Of my 21 days in London this year, I spent part or all of six of them at the library.

There is something incredibly thrilling about getting your hands on a primary source document. There’s a gleeful joy in being allowed to see a 200 year old book, to touch it and turn its pages. There’s a kind of awed reverence in wondering how many hands touched these pages before me, how many minds have read what I’m reading, and in wondering what each person may have felt or thought or concluded from the text, given their own lives and times.

There are also surprises to be found – like the essays from 1891’s Ocean Steamships reading almost like a post from a modern travel blog. This extract is from John H Gould’s Ocean Passenger Travel, reviewing the most recent steamship developments:  “On the most unpretentious modern steamship there is room enough in the chamber to put up a small trunk and even other articles of convenience, and one may dress, if he takes reasonable care, without knocking his knuckles and elbows on the wall or the edges of his berth.’

Or these extracts from Travelling Palaces by AA Fletcher (1913).

IMG_0427 IMG_0426

IMG_0473The joys of the British Library go beyond its marvellous collection and the fact that they let you look at it. It’s a wonderful space, outside and in. The atmosphere is studious but also light; grand yet accessible; serious and playful. There are works of art within and without, including a chair that looks like a book weighted down by ball and chain, and a painting of bookshelves that makes your eyes turn inside out until you realised it not just trick 3D effect- it’s actually a sculpture.

The courtyard outside showcases all kinds of art too – it boasts a kind of summer house with surreal art at present.

IMG_0474 IMG_1023

 

IMG_1025Hell, I’m even so fond of the locker room (you can only take a clear plastic bag of your essential belongings into the reading room, and no pens – though you are allowed now to take photos of the texts for reference.)

Thank you, British Library, for letting me be one of the thousands of people who enjoy your pleasures every day. I’ll see you again soon, I hope.

In the meantime, I am eying off the State Library of Victoria and aim, very soon, to make her my primary mistress for primary sources.

The Books of Love: Tell Me Why by Sandi Wallace

Reviewed by LynC

Tell Me Why_1The blurb…

Picturesque Daylesford has a darker side.

Melbourne writer Georgie Harvey heads to the mineral springs region of central Victoria to look for a missing farmer. There she uncovers links between the woman’s disappearance and her dangerous preoccupation with the unsolved mystery surrounding her husband.

Maverick cop and solo dad John Franklin is working a case that’s a step up from Daylesford’s usual soft crime; a poison-pen writer whose targets are single mothers.

Georgie’s investigation stirs up long buried secrets and she attracts enemies. When she reports the missing person to the local cops, sparks fly between her and Franklin. Has he dismissed the writer too quickly?

A country cop, city writer, retired farmer and poison-pen stalker all want answers. What will they risk to get them? What will be the ultimate cost?

  • Winner of the 2015 Davitt Award Readers’ Choice
  • Shortlisted for the Davitt Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction

The review…

I wasn’t sure about this at first. I mean; a smoking protagonist who has just argued herself out of losing her licence for speeding, running away from a boyfriend who actually wants to commit to her, and bitching about her next door neighbour asking her for help, when, in her own words, Ruby and Michael would do anything for her. But she does help. And what a can of worms that opens!

Ruby’s pal Susan has gone missing. She hasn’t answered her phone for a week. Helping her neighbour takes Georgie on a spin to Daylesford, just a few hours out of Melbourne – especially at the speeds Georgie enjoys in her 1984 Alfa Romeo Spider. Georgie enjoys the trip out of town, enjoys the night away from her boyfriend, and expects to find nothing has happened to Susan. But Susan really is missing. The harder Georgie digs the more obstacles she encounters, not least of them a middle aged cop with a teenage daughter. Georgie and John take an instant dislike to each other, but as each investigates the mystery in their own way, each keeps stumbling over the other.

It is not either’s intention to combine forces, but they need each other. It all points to a car accident years ago, followed by the accidental death of Susan’s husband a few nights later. But was it an accident? Was the smear campaign which turned a good honest and kindly man into a wife bashing monster just a little too convenient?

The seemingly unconnected clues pile up and Georgie can’t help but follow them with John not far behind. Susan finds what she went looking for, but would it perhaps have been wiser to heed the advice of friends to let it go? How wise is it for Georgie to be following the same path. But with her neighbour in hospital, Georgie cannot let it go. She has to have something to tell Ruby.

From the opening and rather dismal few pages this book just got better and better. Putting it down ceased to be an option, I had to keep following Georgie and John. I had to know what came next. I cared that both came out of it safely as the tension started mounting.

There was just one minor jolt in the plot. It was written in 2013. Georgie doesn’t appear to be particularly poor, but she doesn’t own a smart phone, or a GPS. She needs local area maps to get around. In every other aspect it appears to be contemporary.

Apart from the minor discomfit the technology disconnect caused, it was a darn good read. There is a sequel due out real soon now. I want Black Saturday out yesterday so I can keep reading. That is how good I found this novel. It well deserved the Davitt Readers’ Award. Especially amazing considering it was Sandi Wallace’s first novel.

Buy Tell Me Why

About LynC

LynC_200LynC is a 50-something year old widow, juggling the demands of writing Speculative Fiction and being a single Mum.

In the past few years LynC has had four short stories published; one of which — Nematalien — was nominated for an award in 2013. Her first novel — Nil By Mouth (Satalyte Publishing) — was launched at the Australian National Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne in June 2014, and in the first year of publication has been shortlisted for two jury awards (Aurealis Award – SF Category and the Norma K Hemming Award).(Narrelle’s note: this is an excellent book and I recommend it highly.)

LynC resides, with her two ‘new’ adults, three cats, and a canary, in a hidden area less than ten kilometres from the Melbourne CBD (in Australia) surrounded by creeks and wooded hills.


The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.

Petra

On 7 November, our cat Petra passed away after unexpected kidney failure. She was affectionate to the end, and although we couldn’t save her, she didn’t suffer.

She was twelve years old and had been with us since she was a two month old kitten with big ears and confidence to match. She came home the week Tim began work as a freelancer and immediately became his valued business associate and friend.

In my life, Petra was an unjudgmental listener, a sympathetic cuddler, a circuit-breaker to remind me to live in the moment, a creature whose world overlapped with mine but had its own rhyme and reason, and a source of uncomplicated joy.

Living as a completely indoor cat, Petra was very intensely involved in our day to day lives at home. She was affectionate, playful, demanding and hilarious. She was naughty in the way cats can be – because your little rules about where they can walk and put their claws and shed their fur while they sleep are meaningless to them. You can’t berate a cat for not following an arbitrary rule it doesn’t understand, so mostly we just laughed.

PetraThe morning routine often began with her stalking up the bed, staring intently at my face, purring all the while, and coming to bump her head against me. She’d be patient while the idiot ape-creatures she flat-shared with stood in the Box Of Falling Water, but soon after she would let it be known it was Time For Scritchies. These always took place on the red carpet in front of the TV. She’d lower her shoulders, stick her backside up in the air and then purr and wriggle with ecstasy while I scritched my nails up and down her spine. This was not Tim’s job – his designated Time for Scritchies was mid-morning, when he’d returned from coffee outside. Post-shower Scritchies was my job.

PC030164She had all kinds of routines during the day, from the rounds where she inspected the cupboards (to ensure, one supposes, there were no Cat Enemies abroad) to the 4pm Cuddle Me Now Lovefest she visited on whoever was at home. She would rush to the door when we came home, whether from breakfast out or a week travelling, mew a greeting and demand her due of pats, play and cuddles.

At the end of each day, when I sat up in bed reading aloud to Tim – usually from Wodehouse – Petra would come from wherever she was conducting Cat Business to sit on my lap and listen to the Girl Ape droning on in that pleasantish way. (The only objection she ever raised was my attempt to make a proper Empress of Blandings pig noise. She objected by fleeing in terror. I never tried that again.)

Petra loved wash day, and would curl up in the middle of the dry washing to make it nicely tortoiseshell coloured, which she clearly felt was a superior colour scheme.

She thought it was bloody Christmas if the humans opted for an afternoon nap – ALL THE FAMILY NAPPING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY! AWESOME! KITTY PILE!! and would purr her head off while finding the best place to settle on or between us. She had a habit of slotting herself between us anyway, lying on her back with her happily flexing paws in the air as we both rubbed her belly at the same time.

Periodically, we’d find that Petra had seized one of her many half-chewed mouse toys and dragged it proudly off to drop in her food bowl, as if to say, “Behold! I am a Mighty Hunter!”. I once saw her actually dragging a toy on the end of a string which was itself attached to a little stick, trotting across the carpet with her kill dragging between her legs, a tiny little lion of the living room savannah.

Petra loved playing chasey – red dot, bits of string, just dashing about the flat determined not to be caught by the humans who would scoop her up for a cuddle. She knew it was play, we could tell, by the chirpy little trills she made, by the way she’d feint and hide and pounce when she had the chance.

She was a fairly chatty cat. Petra had a range of vocalisations for play, for mealtimes, for when she had just come back from the cat hotel, or we had just come back from a travelling, for when she was half asleep but would greet us as we walked past. When we called the cat hotel while we travelled to see how she was doing, there was always some variation of, ‘Oh, Petra! The talky torty! Oh yes, she’s doing well.’  She always did like people more than she liked other cats and chatted to them constantly.

I used to read my stories aloud to her – it felt marginally less stupid than reading them to empty air – when I wanted to hear the flow of the text and listen for edits that needed to be made. She was a nicely nonjudgemental listener, though she did sometimes wander off in the middle of the exciting parts.

Petra was my company when Tim was travelling. She was the circuit-breaker when we got caught up in stresses of the workday and the outside world. Why should she care about those external things, for which she had no context for understanding? How could she care about things that made no sense in her world?  So she may not have cared about that cranky customer or too many impending deadlines, but that didn’t mean she didn’t respond to us emotionally, on her own terms. She reminded us that the world didn’t revolve around our little slice of the universe, even if it was because she thought it revolved around hers. And why not? In her experience, it was a fair summary, and we were happy to have it so.

There are a million things she did that made us laugh, and only a few things that made us cross (but we laughed anyway) and one thing that she was. She was a friend. A little alien friend, maybe, with whom I communicated clearly enough but simply with sound and tone and gesture, but we connected despite the lack of common speech. We played together and showed love and affection to each other and made sure we weren’t lonely when our boy was away.

Our little home is very quiet now. It’s very still. There’s not a place I sit or walk or lie down that doesn’t come attached to a fond memory.

Waking up without her is hard. Coming home without her greeting me at the door is hard. Going to bed and reading without her purring on my lap as she listens is hard.

There is a Petra-shaped stillness everywhere I look. There’s a Petra-well of silence where she would talk to us.

I miss my friend.

IMG_1145But for all the sorrow I feel right now, I’m glad we three had each other for all those happy years. I’m glad to have given a home to a little cat who enjoyed her life so much, and who enriched my life in so many ways.

There’s a Petra-shaped gap in my home, but at the same time, there’s a Petra-shaped warmth curled up on a pile of metaphorical clean washing in my heart and memory – mewing a greeting when I think of her, and shedding tortoiseshell hair in that snug space.

Everything’s better when it’s torty-coloured.

 

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