Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: Billy Straight by Jonathan Kellerman

Billy Straight (Petra Connor #1) 
Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Released Date: 1999
Publisher: Warner Books

Kellerman isn't just an Edgar Award-winning thriller writer, he's a prominent child psychologist, and it shows in Billy Straight. The hero is a 12-year-old runaway whose sharp mind and straitlaced moral sense make him fit to survive the lurid jungles of Hollywood. One night hiding in Griffith Park, Billy witnesses the butchering of Lisa Ramsey, the cokehead ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a crummy actor-golfer once busted for pummeling Lisa. Did Cart knife Lisa, or was it his pathetic old football sidekick Greg Balch?

When O.J. was on trial, Kellerman said, "This wouldn't make a good novel," but some of Kellerman's toughest critics say this funhouse-mirror version of an O.J.-like case is his best, better than his famous Alex Delaware series. Psychologist Dr. Delaware has a bit part here, but the heroine is Detective Petra Connor, his distaff equivalent. Kellerman's main strength is his vivid invention of secondary characters and his skill at juggling subplots. When Petra's media-whore boss puts Billy's police sketch in the paper with a $25,000 reward, two marvelously sub-simian bounty hunters join the chase: a vicious Russian ex-cop and the vile biker boyfriend of Billy's stoned-out, trailer-park mom.
*Goodreads Blurb*

MY REVIEW

My fifth Jonathan Kellerman read. As usual, I wasn’t disappointed.

When Billy Straight, a twelve-year-old runaway witnesses a gory murder at a park, he must do everything he can to protect himself from the unknown killer. The deceased is Lisa Boehlinger, a former model and ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a TV star. Suspicion falls on Ramsey because Lisa had once publicly revealed how he beat her up. Detective Petra Connor and her partner Bishop Stu are called to investigate the case. When the case gets more complicated than they expect, and with Stu’s wife undergoing a mastectomy, Wil Fourrier joins them in the investigation.

A good mystery, fast-paced, and it pulls the emotional strings. Kellerman’s writing is superb. This book has a large cast of characters and the story is told from different point-of-views. The author does a good job of entering his characters’ head and telling the story the way they would tell it, using the kind of diction they’d use. Thus, you won’t encounter a twelve-year-old speaking like a detective, or a street hustler talking like a murderer. The whole California setting paints a solid image in the head. What’s more, Alex Delaware makes an appearance at the end of the book.

This is first book in the Petra Connor series, though I first encountered Petra in Twisted, my favorite Kellerman novel. I got to learn more about her background and her personality. I connected with her because she’s instinctive, caring, and she’s tough.  A good detective, but not a perfect one. Here, she tackles one of her major cases.

As a result of being tormented severally by his mother’s boyfriend, Billy Straight, the titular character leaves home. He moves to Hollywood and lives in the streets and parks for four months before he witnesses the murder. Jonathan Kellerman does well in capturing this kid’s voice. Billy steals book from the library to read, though he says it’s not stealing because he always returns the books he takes from the library.

Billy Straight is just one amazing book. A five Star read.

Check it out if you like mysteries. You won’t be disappointed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: Necroscope by Brian Lumley

Necroscope
Author: Brian Lumley
Released Date: September 15th 1986
Publisher: Tor Books

Except to Harry Keogh, Necroscope. And what they tell him is horrifying.

In the Balkan mountains of Rumania, a terrible evil is growing. Long buried in hallowed ground, bound by earth and silver, the master vampire schemes and plots. Trapped in unlife, neither dead nor living, Thibor Ferenczy hungers for freedom and revenge.

The vampire's human tool is Boris Dragosani, part of a super-secret Soviet spy agency. Dragosani is an avid pupil, eager to plumb the depthless evil of the vampire's mind. Ferenczy teaches Dragosani the awful skills of the necromancer, gives him the ability to rip secrets from the mind and bodies of the dead. 

Dragosani works not for Ferenczy's freedom but world domination. he will rule the world with knowledge raped from the dead.

His only opponent: Harry Koegh, champion of the dead and the living.

To protect Harry, the dead will do anything--even rise from their graves!
*Goodreads Blurb*

MY REVIEW
I read Necroscope a long time ago (2003 or 2004, I think) I loved it. Recently, I stumbled across the novel and decided to read it again.

I still loved it.

Necroscope is one of the earliest paranormal/horror novels I read. It’s set during the Cold War era. It introduces a secret branch of a British espionage agency simply called E-branch. The Russians, too, have their own equivalent of the E-branch. These agencies, unlike other espionage agencies, use psychic investigators and spies to achieve their aims. And their agents are referred to as ESPers.

Harry Keogh is the Necroscope, a term he uses in describing his gift. He communicates with the dead; they freely tell him their secrets. They’re lonely, they need someone to talk to, so they enjoy talking with him. We follow Harry through his teenage years until he’s grown and learns of his mother’s death. Before then, his ambition had been to avenge her death but he soon discovers another bigger threat, a threat to the whole world.

Boris Dragosani.

Boris Dragosani is the Necromancer. He’s entirely different from Harry Keogh. Whereas the dead freely tell Harry their secret, Dragosani rips it from them, tears it from their guts and bones. The dead don’t feel pain, but when Dragosani works on them, they feel it. This gift had been passed to him from an undead vampire, Thibor Ferenzcy, also referred to as “The Thing in the ground” because for he’d for years been buried under the earth with his head intact.

Although Thibor Ferenzcy lies in the ground throughout most of the book, he remains a terrifying presence. He plans to use Dragosani to raise himself up. But unknown to him, Dragosani has different plans—world domination.

Can he dominate the world with Harry Keogh, champion of the dead, standing on his way?

You have to find out by reading this cool book.

I loved the book for its originality. It felt good seeing the vampires in a different light again. Here, the vampire is an evil creature. He’s not cool at all. He has no mercy on the humans. He doesn’t go to high school. He isn’t sexy, so you won’t even consider falling in love with him.

While I’ve read many books in which the story is told from the point of view of the protagonist only, Nescroscope is one of those few where we get the see the antagonist as much as we see the protagonist. And because I felt both characters had enough depth, I could connect with them.

In Nescrospe, there are other cool stuffs such as time travel. Using a technique called the Möbius Strip, Harry learns that he can use supernatural doors to move between time and space. He also learns how to summon a dead army. The last part of the book reminded me so much of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, where we get to see the dead rise from their graves and march on to battle.

The book has a large cast of characters, but I didn’t get lost at all. Most of them were gifted people, and I was reminded of X-Men. I liked Harry Keogh and his cool gifts. I even liked some of the bad guys like Boris Dragosani, Gregor Borowitz. I liked “The Thing in the ground” because of his cunning nature, and I always enjoyed his conversation with Dragosani.

The first part of the book is slow-paced. It covers Harry’s early years and gives details about the Russian E-Branch. Thus making it different from the fast-paced books one reads nowadays. But it serves as a good background for the rest of the book, as well as the series. I hope to read the next book in the series soon.

You might enjoy this book if you don’t mind the wordiness. Just remember it was published during the late eighties; I think some readers didn’t mind wordiness or slow-pacing then, as much as they do now.

Necroscope is a five star read! (*****)

WARNING: Not for the light-hearted. There’s too much BLOOD, GORE and some GRAPHIC SEX here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

On Writing and...On The Beach Man


When I started writing The Beach Man, I had in mind to write a short story of 100 Words. I’d seen the 100 Word Stories Series in Uzoma’s Blog. I liked it, wanted to do something like that, and so I started with the first sentence that jumped in my head: The killer doesn't lift his eyes off me as he grabs the dagger on the table. And this first sentence began a horror/suspense series that would span 13 weekly episodes. The Beach Man was a fun, and sometimes difficult story to write, but the comments the wonderful readers always dropped kept on pushing me to finish the project.

I’ve always been scared about sharing my work for people to see. Waiting for Dami’s Whistle was the first story I ever shared on this blog, and somehow I love that it didn’t get any comments. That story needs some fixing, but then I’ve decided to leave it as it is. I want to have something I can look back on someday and say, “Oh, this was when I was an amateur writer.” No, I’m not saying I’ve become a professional. English isn’t even my native language, but I keep striving every day to see that I get better in my writing and in my life as a whole.

And then it makes me happy to know I have friends who’ve encouraged me in one way or the other to better my writing.

So, I want to say thanks again to everyone who followed The Beach Man: Robyn, Athina, Uzoma, the honorable Doc. Christopher, Omolara, Jennifer, Ezike Nwadiuto, Neso, E-face, Felix, Florentine, Bella, Chinyere. To Saka, for providing the picture of the beach man—the one you see in the cover.

I might have missed some people but I appreciate everyone who has ever stopped by this blog. By visiting this place, you’ve all being an encouragement to me. So a big “THANK YOU” to you! :)

Ps: I want to use this medium to request for critiques on The Beach Man if you have some time to spare. Robyn and Uzoma have suggested that I turn it into an e-book, so I’d love to brush it up. I’ll appreciate any and all comments. Thank you!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review: The Associate by John Grisham

The Associate
Author: John Grisham 
Released Date:  January 1st 1999
Publisher: Century

It's a deadly game of blackmail. And they're making him play.

Kyle McAvoy is one of the outstanding legal students of his generation: he's good looking, has a brilliant mind and a glittering future ahead of him. But he has a secret from his past, a secret that threatens to destroy his entire life.

One night that secret catches up with him in the form of a deeply compromising video of the incident that haunts him. Kyle realises that he no longer owns his own future - that he must do as his blackmailers tell him, or the video will be made public, with all the unpleasant consequences.

What price do they demand for Kyle's secret? It is for Kyle to take a job in New York as an associate at the largest law firm in the world. Kyle won't be working for this company, but against it - passing on the secrets of it's biggest trial to date, a dispute worth billions of dollars to the victor.

Full of twists and turns and reminiscent of The Firm, The Associate is vintage John Grisham.
*Goodreads Blurb*


MY REVIEW

The Associate is my first John Grisham read, but I did not wholly enjoy it like I thought I would.

It tells the story of Kyle McAvoy, a twenty-five year old about to graduate from Law School and plans to work for a public-interest firm. One night a man appears with an incriminating video, secretly taken by a cell phone, which reveals the details of a drunken party few years earlier. The video contains evidence that some of Kyle’s friends may have slept with a girl who may have been unconscious at the time. There’s actually nothing to incriminate Kyle except that he was in the video, drunken and nude. And that’s embarrassing. Thus begins the blackmail: in order not to release the video to the public and to stop a potential rape allegation, Kyle has to work in one of the biggest law firms in the world and steal documents related to a lawsuit between two defence contractors.

Well, the blurb says the book is reminiscent of The Firm, but I haven’t read The Firm, so I can’t compare both books. The story spans a period of ten months. The beginning and middle of the books sets up the story in a fairly slow pace, showing what the life of a first year associate is like at a big Wall Street firm. Then the ending moves in a very fast, non-stop pace. I like John Grisham’s style of writing; there wasn’t too much legal jargon, but I was pleased to learn a few. The book is mainly set in New York, but we are transported back and forth to Pittsburg and York, Pennsylvania.

I liked the main character, Kyle McAvoy, felt some sympathy for him and the grave circumstance hanging over him. Although contemplative at times, I thought he was brave to match the blackmailer’s schemes. I think he’s the only character with enough depth in the story. I liked other characters like the beautiful Dale, who wears fine dresses; Joey Bernardo, Kyle’s friend from Yale University. But I didn’t connect with them. 

My put off with this book, however, was the ending. The last pages seemed rushed and there were lots of unanswered questions. It left me with a feeling like I’d eaten a good meal, but without any water to wash it down my throat. In other words, the meal got stuck in my throat and I couldn’t digest it.

Well, because I couldn’t digest this meal, I’m giving it 3 (***) Stars.

I’ll still check out other meals in the Grisham Restaurant. I think I’ll go for the ones prepared in the early nineties.

Ps: This is my 100th post! :) Thanks to everyone who's every stopped by this blog. You rock!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #13






















Ifeoma

“You’re so naïve, Ifeoma,” the killer says when I stand before him. “You created me. Now you want to destroy me?  Why not think about what we could achieve together?”

I grip the handle of the basket harder. “I did not create you!”

“Your potion turned me into this. You’re to blame for everything I’ve ever done.”

“No,” I say, shaking my head. “My potion was for a peaceful transition to life after death. You should have walked away and be reincarnated like me. Yet you stayed back.”

“To avenge your death.”

“You killed everyone involved. Why didn’t you leave?” I spit on his face. “Because you’re evil!”

He scowls. “I’ll hunt you—”

I don’t wait for him to finish. I reach inside the basket, scoop a handful of salt, and hurl it at him. He shrieks, swings his hand towards me, but the entrapment chalk stops him. I reach for the salt again, toss another handful at him.

His body drops to the ground. He curls ups, shivering and whining. Like a dog.

I empty the remaining salt on him. He stiffens. Then, from his mouth, a cloud rises, forming a vague human form above the dead body. I take out the bowl of garlic, set it on the floor. I strike a match. Light the garlic. Then retreat backwards and stand beside Shola.

She reaches for my hand, and together we watch the killer.

He floats about in his true form, seeking for an exit. But soon the smoke from the garlic wears him down; he drops to the ground and begins to fade, until he is no more. Banished from Earth forever.

Shola hugs me with a sigh, and I put my hand around her as she sobs against my back. Tears roll down my face, dropping to the sand.

Finally, this torment is over.

In silence, we hold hands and walk towards the village, alone in the dark night.

The villagers would relax now. People would come to the beach on Sundays, without the fear of being killed. My bag is packed already. I know where to go next.

The hospital.

Because he didn’t want me devastated, Uchenna lied to me about our parents—they had actually sustained some burns in the fire and were in the intensive care unit now.

They need my comfort in this difficult time.

And my healing hands, as well.


THE END


Footnote: This is the final episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series. I hope you enjoyed it. For the first episode, click HERE.

Thanks for reading! Thanks again to everyone who’s followed the series. Can I say another thanks? Well, thanks.

Okay, a special post comes up next Monday.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #12






















Ifeoma

A cold wind blows against me as the killer closes the gap between us. Staring at his new borrowed body, I steady myself, careful not to reveal any trace of the entrapment chalk underneath my bare feet.

“Look who’s here.” He grins, brushing my cheek with the back of his palms. “My sweet Ifeoma.”

“These people wronged you and…” I swallow hard. “They also wronged me, but please stop the killing.”

He shakes his head. “You should try it.”

“What?”

“I mean, try piercing a dagger through someone. Watch their lifeblood seep away.” He smiles. “And then that fearful look in their eyes…oh, it gives me this feeling of pure ecstasy. You really should try it.”

“I’m tired of…I’m just…” I break into a sob.

He puts his arms around me, patting my back gently. I lean against his chest, and an overwhelming feeling of familiarity settles upon me—there used to be a time when he’d return from hunting, and I’d prepare his kill for dinner. He cared so much for me then, even resisted pressures from his family to marry a new wife because I couldn’t bear him a child. He was a good husband.

Now he's…a killer.

A demon!

Suddenly I remember. Under my feet. Chalk.

Holding him closer, I slide my left foot around him in a curving motion, making sure it doesn’t lift from the sand. I do the same with my right foot, until it connects with the arc from the left.

The killer looks at me, sober expression in his eyes. “I missed holding you like this.”

I swing a punch at his jaw and jump backwards.

He tries moving towards me but stops in mid-action. He looks down, sees the chalk circling him. Then he looks at me, his eyes wide with fear.

I smile. “Tricked you fool.”

Just then Shola emerges from the cluster of coconut trees in the right, clutching a small basket. “I thought I’d totally lost you to the past.”

“Let me do the rites.”

She hands the basket to me. I look inside: a bowl of salt, another bowl of dried, sliced garlic, and a box of matches.

Salt ejects a demon from its host body. Smoke from burning garlic weakens the demon and banishes it from Earth forever.

The killer begins to tremble as I walk towards him; he knows I’ve done this so many times.


Footnote: This is the twelfth episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
Click HERE for the next episode.

Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for the thirteenth episode next Monday.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book Review: The Cobra Event by Richard Preston

The Cobra Event
Author: Richard Preston
Released Date: August 29th 1998
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Five days ago. a homeless man on a subway platform died in agony as startled commuters looked on. Yesterday, a teenager started having violent, uncontrollable spasms in art class. Within minutes, she too was dead.

Dr. Alice Austen is a medical pathologist at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. What she knows is that the two deaths are connected. What she fears is that they are only the beginning…

*Goodreads Blurb*





MY REVIEW

It begins with a common cold. You find yourself blowing your nose every moment. You sneeze occasionally. You take some cold syrup. The syrup doesn’t help. You feel even worse. You're drifting apart. Someone’s talking to you, but you aren’t paying any attention. You feel weak and weary and disoriented. And then you suddenly drop to the floor, thrashing around violently. You feel strange blisters in your mouth. Next you begin to chew your lips and the insides of your mouth in relish. You know you’re hurting yourself but you just can’t help it. Then your spine begins to curve backward and backward, until you…

Sounds creepy, right?

Well, I’ve just described how the Cobra virus works.

The Cobra Event is a realistic science fiction. It’s about a virus, Cobra, which affects the brain and turns one into a monster, killing oneself from inside.

A homeless man dies on a subway platform. Days later, a teenager dies under strange circumstances. Dr. Alice Austen of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is sent to New York to examine what seems like an outbreak of a disease. Along with her fellow scientists, she discovers this disease is actually a virus, released by an unknown terrorist, with strong indications of a bigger release to come soon. What follows is a flurry of scientific activities as they battle to discover the properties of this new virus, because doing that would help identify the terrorist.

This is one of those kinds of books I refer to as edutainment. I learnt much scientific stuff while reading. I was entertained by the chilling story as well. There were lots of biological and medical stuffs I liked in the book. I was distracted, though, by some of the expositions. The author seemed to explain everything, and with too many details, the reading experience felt like science lecture sometimes. I was detached a bit, but I kept on reading because I wanted to see how everything ends, though I predicted rightly who would and who wouldn’t survive.

About the characters, I didn’t really connect with any of them. I felt they didn’t have much depth. The bad guy, a scientist-turned-terrorist, however, was a real bad guy.

Overall, I’d say The Cobra Event is a wonderful read. I loved the chills it gave me—sometimes I stopped to wonder what if the air I were breathing was filled with virus particles. That’s what this book does to you. It shows you what a bioterrorist attack could look like today. I’d have given it more stars if the first part of the book didn’t drag out. The last fifty pages, with its fired shots and explosions, were the best parts.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good medical thriller and who doesn’t mind lectures while reading fiction. The author has some really great nonfiction books.

You’ll love this book if you’re a Michael Crichton fan.

So, here goes my three (***) stars to The Cobra Event.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #11






















Ifeoma

The sniffling from the other room stops after a while, then Shola emerges through the door, holding a notebook. I feel a stab of déjà vu as she settles across me; her twin sister had sat just there yesterday, listening as I told her about my strange dreams.

Wiping her eyes with a handkerchief, she places the notebook on the desk.

“I’m really sorry about your sister,” I say.

She shakes her head. “It isn’t your fault. Perhaps if she had been patient, none of this would have happened.”

“How do you mean?”

“Folakemi wasn’t supposed to start a private practice yet.”

I stare at her, confused, and she continues.

“Spiritualism is a difficult practice with different stages. My whole family practices it. There’re five levels of experience in spiritualism. Level one is the beginner stage, while level five is the master stage. In Nigeria, we have just few level five spiritualists.”

I narrow my eyes at her. “What level are you?”

“I’m Level four,” Shola says, regretful look on her face. “But Folakemi was only Level two. She wasn’t patient to learn gradually. She was always eager to reach the fifth level and start her own practice. My father’s a Level five, but it took him thirty-seven years to get there. She renounced our family after a quarrel with him four years ago. Then she started travelling and was always keeping ears open for strange spirits. I guess that’s how she landed here. I’ve been here once to persuade her to return to our family, but she closed the door on me. She was mad because I supported my father in the fight.” She wipes her nose noisily. “But last night she called out to me telepathically, and I knew she was in trouble, so I took the late night bus to get here. Now from what I’ve seen in her notebook, she underestimated the beach man.” She leans forward and holds my hand. “You see, the beach man isn’t just a spirit but a demon who’s grown stronger and stronger over the years. We must stop him quickly.”

My heart races. “We?”

“Yes.” She nods, her eyes flashing with desperation. “We must stop him tonight.”

“Tonight? But I don’t—I…”

“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. I’ll teach you to become Level five again.” She squeezes my hand harder. “Ifeoma, you were a Level five in your former life.”


Footnote: This is the eleventh episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
Click HERE for the next episode.

Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for the twelfth episode next Monday.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #10






















Ifeoma

When I wake up, I find myself still sitting on the chair in my room. I grab the towel beside me and wipe my face, trying to recall the dream I just had. Few feet away from me, Chika folds the last of my clothing and slips it into my backpack. She zips up it and looks at me. “I’m done. Emeka’s waiting for us at the motor park.”

I shake my head. “I told you I’m going nowhere.”

She frowns. “See, our lives are better than this NYSC. Two corpers left this morning. Everybody knows this place isn’t safe anymore. Please brush your teeth and let’s leave, okay?”

I look away, and then she walks over to me after a moment of silence. She begins to say something, but I cut her off.

“Leave me alone! Why do you even care now? Go away. I’m not coming with you.”

I expect her to walk away, but she just looks at me and wipes the tears flowing down my cheeks. Then she gently pulls me up and hugs me. “I’m very sorry. I wish I’d listened to you when you first told me about the dreams. Please let’s—”

Dreams!

Everything comes back to me and my body stiffens against hers.

She steps backward. “What’s wrong?”

“Call Emeka. Tell him to come back. We’re not leaving.”

“Why?”

“We’ll die if we try to leave.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The dream I just had. The beach man was the bus driver. He plunged the vehicle into a river, and we all drowned.”

Chika opens her mouth to say something, but then thinks better of it and closes it.

“You’re thinking, what if you leave alone with Emeka?” I say. “Not a good idea.”

She stares guiltily at the floor for a while, then looks up at me. “So what do we do now?”

“I’ll go to the spiritualist place and check around. I need to know who Shola is.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“No, you’ll stay here with—”

Someone knocks on the door, and Chika crosses the room to open it before I can stop her. My stomach drops when I see the woman by the door: heavyset, dark chocolate skin, piercing eyes—a replica of the spiritualist.

“Hello, I’m Shola Adeniyi,” she says, looking at me, and then as if noticing my shock, she adds, “Folakemi’s twin sister.”


Footnote: This is the tenth episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
*Click HERE for the next episode.
NYSC: National Youth Service Corps. A one-year national service in Nigeria for graduates, aimed to bring about unity in the country and to help youths appreciate other ethnic groups
Corpers: Popular name for graduates working under the National Service scheme, although an appropriate term is “Youth Corps member.”

Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for the eleventh episode next Monday.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Feature and Follow #13 - Preferred Reading Format


Happy Friday, everyone!

Feature & Follow is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. The purpose is to meet new people and gain more followers in the book blogging community. If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers. But you have to know, the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me. The general the rules are:

•  Follow the Feature and Follow Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
•  Follow the Featured Bloggers
•  Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
•  Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
•  Follow Follow Follow as many as you can. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
•  If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers. Thanks!!

Q: What is your preferred reading format? Hardcover, eBooks, Paperback etc?

I prefer reading the good ol’ paperback. I love the feel of real pages in my hands. And I like the smell too. I’d say eighty-five percent of the books I’ve read in my lifetime are paperbacks, Hardcover five percent, and eBook taking the remaining ten. I love eBooks, though. I use an eReading app on my computer; I think they're are faster to finish, and you can easily highlight any passage that catches you interest.

What about you? What’s your preferred reading format?

If you are a new follower, I prefer Bloglovin or Email please.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by. And don't forget to leave your link in the comments section below so I can see your FF or follow back!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #9






















Ifeoma

Flashing a wicked smile, the killer turns away from me and moves toward the spiritualist.

She directs the mirror at him, chanting the words of an incantation. Ignoring the urge to run away, I pull back and watch; the killer has stopped in midstride, whining like a dog in pain. His skin begins to peel off and fall to the ground, revealing ugly scars.

The spiritualist closes the gap between them, and he drops to the ground. Just then his body begins to shrink and shrink, until nothing is left where he’d stood except for his shredded skin and the clothes he’d worn. Then she places the mirror upon the clothes, waves me over.

I ignore my instincts, which tells me to run away, and move towards her, my heart pounding violently.

“This is the most dangerous part,” she says, handing me the knife. She points to the mirror. “He’s in there. He’s very, very weak now. Strike hard. Shatter the mirror in the first attempt or you’ll awaken him, and all our efforts will be useless.”

I can’t keep my hand from trembling. “Please can you do it yourself?”

She shakes her head.

“Why?”

“The creator destroys her creation.”

“What?”

“Your potion created him. Only you can destroy him now.”

“Are you sure this-”

“Don’t worry, it’ll work.” She pats my shoulder. “Breathe in, breathe out. Don’t strike with fear.”

“Okay.” I suck in a deep breath and then let it hiss out slowly. I feel power bubbling within me as I steady my hand and clench the knife harder, determined to end this torment.

The spiritualist steps back. “Strike.”

I raise the knife and in one powerful move bring it down upon the mirror, smashing it with a loud clink. A body drops behind me. I turn around; the spiritualist lies on the ground, thrashing violently, gore rushing from a deep gash in her throat. I stare at her, confused, and just then someone laughs behind me. I spin around – the clothes, the shredded skin, the knife, the mirror, everything is gone.

“I tricked you fools,” the familiar voice says, although I can’t see anyone. “Now you’ve become what you always avoided. A killer.”

The spiritualist bursts into a fit of coughs. I whip around. She’s trying to say something.

I lean closer to her and catch the name on her lips before her body goes still.

Shola.


Footnote: This is the ninth episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
*Click HERE for the next episode.

Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for the tenth episode next Monday.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Feature and Follow #12 - Favorite Literary Quote


Happy Friday, everyone!

Feature & Follow is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. The purpose is to meet new people and gain more followers in the book blogging community. If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers. But you have to know, the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me. The general the rules are:

•  Follow the Feature and Follow Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
•  Follow the Featured Bloggers
•  Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
•  Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
•  Follow Follow Follow as many as you can. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
•  If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers. Thanks!!

Q: Activity: Favorite Literary Quote

Nice activity. :) So, here I go, my favorite quote, from the last three lines of one of my favorite poems:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.”
Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken.

What about you? What's your favorite literary quote?

If you are a new follower, I prefer Bloglovin or Email or RSS please.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by. And don't forget to leave your link in the comments section below so I can see your FF or follow back!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #8






















Ifeoma

I catch a glimpse of the stone before it trips me. And pain explodes in my cheeks as I hit the ground. Mildly dazed, I pull myself up and continue towards the beach, gasping for air, ignoring the people calling after me.

I cannot let my parents die.

I am near the sands when I feel my body working against me – my heart pounds fiercely, my whole mouth is dried out, and my ankles scream with pain. With the last of my strength, I push forward, but slowly. Finally, I hear the sound of water splashing against rocks.

In the moonlight, the beach looks deserted, and the cold wind blowing with eerie sounds sends a shiver down my spine. Hugging myself, I scan the area with itchy eyes. My heart almost drops when I see the killer a few yards away, ambling towards me with a smile.

He opens his arms for a hug when he reaches me. “Hallo, sweetheart.”

“My parents,” I say under my breath.

“You’re a minute and twenty-three seconds early, so don’t worry. They’re fine.”

“I need proof.”

“Okay, my dear.” He reaches into his pocket, takes out a cell phone, and passes it to me.

I dial my brother’s number at once. “Uchenna, how are papa and mama?” I say when he takes my call.

“They’re fine now. A fireman pulled them out.” His voice drops. “But, sista…”

“What?”

“Our house is gone. Everything.”

I want to say something to cheer Uchenna up, but the killer snatches the phone and ends the call. Staring at him, I notice that his scars are gone.

“Wondering about my scars?” He closes the gap between us, his eyes peering deep into mine. “I didn’t want to scare you since we were meeting each other for the first time in reality, so I borrowed someone else’s body. Do you like my new look?”

I take few steps back, eyeing him warily. “Why do want me here?’

“For this.” He opens his palms and a small gourd materializes upon it. “The remnant of your wonderful potion. Just drink it and become like me. Now is the perfect time to avenge your death.”

“No, she won’t drink it! Not tonight. Not ever!”

I turn towards the voice on my right.

The spiritualist stands there, clutching a small knife in one hand. In the other hand, she holds a small, rounded mirror.


Footnote: This is the eight episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
Click HERE for the next episode.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden, #1)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Released Date: April 24th 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

To survive in a ruined world, she must embrace the darkness.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for again.

Enter Julie Kagawa's dark and twisted world as an unforgettable journey begins.
*Goodreads Blurb*

MY REVIEW
There is a saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But I don’t always agree with it. I mean, I judge books (some of them) by their covers. And that’s what attracted me to this wonderful book, even more than its enticing blurb.

Did I say this book is wonderful? 

Sure, it is.

Sixty years ago, civilization was hit by a plague – Red Lung. This plague reduced the human population, thereby causing chaos everywhere. A good opportunity for the vampires, who came out from their hiding and began their rule over the humans left. As a human in this new dark world, you’re either a Registered or an Unregistered. Being a Registered has its privileges. You get to eat good food, you live in good conditions. But then every two weeks you have to submit a portion of your blood to the vampires. You fail to do that and you’ll be dead. As an Unregistered, you have no privileges. You don’t exist in the society, you’re on your own, and if you’re ever caught stealing from the vampires or a Registered, you would be hanged.

What a harsh world!

It isn’t harsh yet. Hear this: outside the vampire cities is a deserted world overrun by the rabids. These guys aren’t your regular zombies; these guys are faster and are more vicious. You’d definitely prefer becoming a vampire's dinner than running into them.

Allison Sekemoto is one of the Unregistereds. She survives in the fringe by scavenging with her crew of three scrawny boys. One night she and her friends leave the city of New Covington to scavenge in the ruins, and on their way back, they’re attacked by the rabids. The attack is brutal; it leaves her friends dead and her on the brink of death. Then a lone vampire appears and gives her a choice to either let him transform her or let the wounds of the rabids kill her off. Allie hates the vamps, everything about them, but when faced with such a grim choice, she decides on the transforming. It’s always been in her nature to survive, even if it meant becoming “something she loathed.”

And thus begins the story of Allison’s new life as a blood sucker, a demon, a monster, a VAMPIRE.

The Immortal Rules is quite voluminous and is divided into four parts, narrated by Allison:

1. Human: This part tells the story of Allison’s life in the fringe and stops where she is turned into a vampire.
2. Vampire: Allison’s new life begins. She learns more about her new self and trains with her master, Kanin, who teaches her how to survive.
3. Monster: An “incident” makes Allison to leave New Convington and she begins to find her way in the forests, the ruins, discovering a world she never knew existed. Here she must learn to control the demon inside her or it would overcome her, thereby causing havoc to her new friends.
4. Wanderer: An “incident” makes Allison to part with her friends.

The Immortal Rules is my first Julie Kagawa read, and I loved it. The vampire plus post-apocalyptic elements in the book made me enjoy it even more. I liked Ms. Kagawa’s writing style, and I liked Allison’s narrative voice, sometimes tough, sometimes soft, and wholly realistic. The book feels like a journey, and you can’t help but think along with Allison when she makes certain choices. Sometimes you feel pity for her, sometimes you’re mad at her, other times you just understand her. And then like all good books, sometimes you ask yourself, “What would I do if I was in that situation?”

The world building is awesome. I loved the ruins, the abandoned cities, the fallen skyscrapers, the waterlogged cities, the yards crawling with weed, the rooms overrun by rats, the cracked streets filled with abandoned vehicles. Imagine a head of deer running about in a city. Sometimes reading the book felt like watching a movie. You feel as if you’re right there beside Allison, taking in the view of a post-apocalyptic world.

On characters, The Immortal Rules has a wide, memorable cast. There’s Zeke aka Ezekiel Crosse, the kind-hearted boy, who sticks up for everyone, though I felt he was too good, and I hated that he always tried to impress Jeb aka Jebbadiah Crosse, Zeke’s father. Jeb felt more real than his adopted son, Zeke. He’s a tough, fanatical, no-nonsense character. Sometimes I hated him, sometimes I liked him. And if there’s one character I wish I could enter the book and yell at, it must be Ruth. Ruth is so annoying; she pries on people’s affair, and she’s jealous and sometimes pessimistic. But she felt very real to me. I think she’s even more memorable than Zeke. And then there’s Kanin, Allison’s master or “sire,” a mysterious character. I liked him because his mysteriousness, although you don’t get to see him again after the first half of the book.

Overall, I’d say The Immortal Rules is a good book. It doesn’t only entertain but also draws you in and makes you ask questions. The pacing is quite slow in some places, but it has plenty action. I mean a lot of action. Did I mention that Allison is a kick-ass protagonist, the girl with a katana, who slashes the rabids like she’s cutting vegetables? And the ending! Oh, man I loved the ending. I wish I could talk about it without leaving any spoilers. That ending left me feeling like I’d just seen a good movie.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a vampire/apocalyptic/dystopian YA novel. I’ve seen good reviews on the second book, The Eternity Cure, and I hope I’ll read it soon.

And so, here goes my five stars (*****) to The Immortal Rules.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #7






















Ifeoma

I drop to the ground at once, my hands all over Peter, his head, arms, stomach, anything I can touch. But nothing happens. I close my eyes in concentration – maybe I’m missing something. 

Yet Peter doesn’t stir.

Tears roll down my face. He’s dead. Dead!

***
It’s almost midnight. Emeka and Chika sit across from me, in silence, worried looks on their faces. We’ve just returned from the morgue in the town and have informed Peter’s parents about his…death; tomorrow they’ll come and collect his body for burial.

“Wait,” Chika says, suddenly turning towards Emeka.  “What if he comes after us too?”

Emeka looks at me, frightened eyes mirroring the same question.

I open my mouth to say something, but my cell phone rings, cutting me off. I look at the screen, wondering who the unknown caller is, and then I press the answer button after a moment of hesitation.

“Hallo, sweetheart,” the deep, familiar voice says.

I freeze at once, and goose bumps appear on my arms. Emeka and Chika shoot me questioning looks.

“Leave me alone.” I say. “Aren’t you satisfied by his death?”

“Oh, she’s mourning an idiot who didn’t even love her.”

“Shut up!” I feel anger course through my veins. “I’ll find you wherever you are. I’ll kill you. I swear you’ll remain dead, forever!”

“I guess I’ll have to make this quick then,” he says with a chuckle. “Ifeoma, your boyfriend’s death was only the beginning of this night of torments.” The call ends abruptly.

Torments?

Before I can think about it, my phone rings again. It’s my youngest brother, Uchenna. Dread settles over me as I answer the call.

“Sista, Sista, our house is on fire!”

“What?”

“Fire,” Uchenna says, amid background noise of sirens and shouts. “Papa and mama are trapped inside. I can’t-”

Another call comes in just then, the number unknown. I quickly put my brother on hold. “Not my family. Please don’t do this to me.”

“Hear her, she begs like a baby now,” the killer says, laughing.

“Please I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Okay.” A moment passes and then he says, “I want you at the beach now. Consider yourself responsible for your parent’s death if you don’t make it in…ten minutes.”

I drop the phone at once. Behind me, as I race out the door, I hear Chika and Emeka calling me back.

But I ignore them.


Footnote: This is the seventh episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
Click HERE for the next episode.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Feature and Follow #11 - I Broke up with that Series


Happy Friday, everyone!

Feature & Follow is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. The purpose is to meet new people and gain more followers in the book blogging community. If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers. But you have to know, the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me. The general the rules are:

•  Follow the Feature and Follow Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
•  Follow the Featured Bloggers
•  Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
•  Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
•  Follow Follow Follow as many as you can. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
•  If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers. Thanks!!

Here’s this week's question: Have you broken up with a series? If so which one and why

Honestly, I haven’t read so many series. I usually read single books, so I can’t think of any series I’ve broken up with. Currently, I’m in the middle of these series: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Legend by Marie Lu, and The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. They’re awesome, and I don’t think I’m going to break up with them. Besides, I’m caught in a love triangle between Beatrice Prior and Allison Sekemoto. *winks*

So, that’s it. How about you? Which series have you broken up with? And why?

With GFC going away please follow via BlogLovin, RSS, or Email.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by. And don't forget to leave your link in the comments section below so I can follow back!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #6






















Ifeoma

Peter smells of alcohol and tobacco; he makes faces at me and laughs at every word I say, annoying me even more. Again, I check my watch. Ten o’clock.

"See, it’s getting past my bedtime," I say, frowning. "You can’t stay here."

He scowls for a moment and then begins to laugh. "I warned you about going to that spiritualist’s place, and now she’s messed your head up with visions and more myths about the beach man. Ah, you're so dumb to believe in those bullshit stories."

I clench my fists, resisting the urge to hit him. "Just get out of my room now!"

"I’m not going to leave, and you know that."

"You know what?" I sigh. "I don’t care whether you stay or leave. Just don’t touch me while I sleep."

He winks at me, bowing slightly. "Yes, your highness."

I turn away from him and lie on the bed. Then I put on my earphones and press the play button on my MP3 player. The music helps calm my body, shutting out Peter’s voice, and soon I drift into oblivion.

***

I open my eyes, finding myself in the killer’s hut. Peter sits in front of me, strapped to a chair, panting and kicking furiously in his struggle to escape. I try to rush towards him, to help, but my feet are planted on the floor, as if held by glue.

The door opens just then, and the killer enters the room, clutching a dagger. With light footsteps, he walks towards Peter.

"Please leave him alone," I say.

He shakes his head and mutters something. Then he raises his hand, and I catch a flash in the dagger as he drives it into Peter’s stomach.

At the same time, I hear shouts outside the hut.

***

The shouts continue when I wake up. Surprised to find my door wide open, I roll out of my bed and rush outside. A small crowd stands few feet away from my door, everybody speaking simultaneously, in loud voices, confusing me even more. When I break into the center of the crowd, I see Peter lying on the ground, holding a long dagger; his body is still, and in his stomach, a deep gash, crimson smeared around it.

Then I hear the girl beside me say, "I saw the whole thing! He just stood here for a while and then he stabbed himself."


Footnote: This is the sixth episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
* Click HERE for the next episode.

Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for the seventh episode next Monday.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Feature and Follow #10 - Bloggers I Would Like to Meet


Happy Friday, everyone! :)

Feature & Follow is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. The purpose is to meet new people and gain more followers in the book blogging community. If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers. But you have to know, the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me. The general the rules are:

•  Follow the Feature and Follow Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
•  Follow the Featured Bloggers
•  Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
•  Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
•  Follow Follow Follow as many as you can. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
•  If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers. Thanks!!

Here’s this week's question: What blogger would you most like to meet in real life? Tell us about him or her.

Since I started blogging, I’ve met so many cool people online. I wish I could list them all, but I can’t, so here are some which I’d love to meet.

1. Robyn @ robgirlbooks. Apart from being a very good supporter of my blog, Robyn is such an awesome person. You only have to read her posts to know that. I love her posts, especially the Think out Loud meme, which comes up every Thursday. Did I also mention that she’s a wonderful writer? Well, I haven’t read any of her books, but I have on my ‘to read’ list. And if you want to read nice books, movies and even a zoo review with good concept, do stop by her blog.

2. Uzoma @ 85degrees. Uzoma is my brother from another mama. He’s a good writer; reading his works inspires me. In fact, his 100-Word stories inspired, my 400-word horror story, The Beach Man. He is such a cool artist and did I mention we beta read for each other? Well, the day I’d meet with him I’m going to buy him a lot of beer for all the good suggestions he’s been making in my WIP.

3. Florentine @ Readiculously peachy. I think it was the sweet title of her blog that got me curious about her. Apart from the title, her blog, in my opinion, has the most beautiful design I’ve ever come across. You can’t help but admire the beautiful layout. Sometimes you even want to lick it, because it looks so delicious. Okay, blog title and design apart, I love her reviews. They’re fun to read, and recently I enjoyed her review of The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa. That review made me get the first book, The Immortal Rules, which I started reading today. And Florentine is a good supporter of my blog.

4. Athina @ Between My Lines. I’d love to sit by the beach with her one day, discussing writing and publishing. Even though I haven’t met her, I can feel her passion about writing, especially in her blog posts about writing, editing, and criticism. Athina seems to me like a headstrong person who’ll never give up until they achieve their goal. And that’s what she’s been doing ever since, seriously working to better her debut novel, DAZED. I hope to read that book one day.

Okay, I think I’ll stop here. There are others I want to meet, like Alison and Parajunkee, so I can say ‘thank you’ for hosting such a wonderful meme.

And thanks to everyone who’s ever stopped by The Creative Forum!

I love you all! :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

The 400-Word Story: The Beach Man #5






















Ifeoma

I can remember lying on the bed in the spiritualist’s dark room, but when I open my eyes, I find myself sitting on a round stool, inside a small hut.

‘Welcome again to our home.’

I turn towards the voice, and I see him – the killer – standing few feet away, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

‘Why are you tormenting me?’ I say.

‘Why?’ He frowns slightly. ‘Because a wife isn’t supposed to cheat on her husband.’

‘What do you-’

‘You know what I mean. You’ve been cheating on me with that boy, Peter.’

‘But I’m not your-.’

‘I knew you’d doubt me. Remember the dead goat when you were five?’

I frown. The dead goat.

‘Yes. Remember?’

‘But how…’ I turn away from him, and my biggest secret, the incident with the dead goat, rushes through my mind.

On the Christmas when I was five, our family woke up to a tragedy: the goat, which my father had bought for the celebration, dead. It hurt me seeing the disappointment on my parents and brother’s face; we were poor then, and everybody knew it was going to be a terrible Christmas. So, when I was alone, I knelt beside the goat, talking to it, begging it to return to life. It didn’t. But when I touched it, I felt energy depart my body. And just then, the goat bleated.

We had a pleasant Christmas afterwards.

But I didn’t stop there. Dead insects, dead animals, they all returned to life whenever I touched them. I was scared; I knew I was different from other people, so I stopped touching dead things.

‘You know,’ the killer’s deep voice brings me back to the hut. ‘You have the same scar she had. The one in your right palm.’

I shake my head. ‘I’m not your wife.’

‘Back then you always said that after death, souls return to live a new life in another body and that you hope we’d meet again.’

‘Okay, let’s say I believe you. What do you want from me now?’

‘They were envious of your healing gift, that’s why they killed you. But I saved some of your emergency potion. All you have to do is drink it, become invincible like me, and let’s wipe out the community, avenge yourself.’

‘And what if I disagree?’

The killer sneers at me, his face deeply malevolent. ‘Then you’ll die with them.’


Footnote: This is the fifth episode of The Beach Man, a 400-Word Blog Series.
Click HERE for the next episode.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Feature: Paradise Squandered by Alex Stefansson

Hello, everyone.

I hope you’re all having a good week! It’s Wednesday, and a good time for another feature. So, today I’m happy to present you Paradise Squandered by Alex Stefansson.

And now, time for a sneak peek. Enjoy!

Book Blurb

Insightful, provocative and bold, Paradise Squandered is Alex Stefansson's take-no-prisoners debut novel about a cynical teenager's naive artistic aspirations, and his pining love for a girl he is too afraid to actually talk to. It is a raw, powerful portrait of a disaffected generation in an empty, consumer-culture world. It is the story of Andrew Banks, a recent graduate of Puget Sound Prep and quite possibly the most directionless member of his graduating class.

This is a story of what it is like to aimlessly trudge along that strange and uncharted course that is life after high school. 

Andrew returns home from a long-promised graduation trip to Hawaii and re-enters a bland, suburban landscape of privilege and indifference feeling alone and empty. The house he grew up in doesn't feel like home anymore. His mother seems more interested in desperately clinging to youth than being a mother. His sister only cares about playing the role of dutiful daughter. His brother disappeared years ago. His dad died when he was ten.

Talented but uninspired, Andrew knows he wants to pursue his art, but he has no idea how. He resigns himself to going through the motions of his own life, until he overhears the disturbing truth of his father's death. He instantly decides he has to leave his childhood home forever, and a darkly hilarious odyssey ensues.

Excerpt

I shift into neutral, kill the engine and start coasting through the last few blocks of eerily-silent residential streets, running stop signs, not wanting to disturb anyone or alert anyone to my presence. The wharf is in sight, barely lit by the waning moon and my approaching headlights. It's all downhill from here. I switch off the headlights and stop the car behind an overflowing dumpster. The air coming through the heater-vents is already growing cold again, I notice as I set the emergency brake; I was just starting to warm up, too. I can see my breath every time I exhale. The windows begin to fog up again. I pull the key out of the ignition, open the door and step out into the cold night air.

I'm digging around in the trunk, using my cell-phone as a flashlight, hoping to find some extra clothes, or a blanket, or anything else that could possibly help keep me warm. But there is not all that much to look through. The trunk is unfortunately clean and uncluttered. All I see is an empty gas can and this enormous emergency kit my mother gave me for Christmas the year I started driving.

“That car is a death-trap,” she told me. She told me that on more than one occasion. “That's the biggest kit I could find,” she said, which, in her mind at least, undoubtedly meant it was the best. “You'll thank me one day.” It wasn't the merriest Christmas. I don't have many happy holiday memories. Too much awkward, forced mingling.

An emergency blanket rustles obnoxiously as I shake it out of its packaging. I'm still mentally debating whether or not to actually use anything from the kit as I pull the thin Mylar rectangle over my shoulders, tightening the blanket around my back—I'm concerned my mother will later somehow find out what I've done here and be proven correct about the usefulness of her very thoughtful Christmas gift. I shake off the doubt, grab a road flare, slam the trunk lid shut and walk the rest of the way down the steeply-declining, dead-end road. I cross the railroad tracks and stop for a moment, peering through the chain-link fence that cordons off the remains of the decaying wharf. I'm amazed at the fact that such disrepair exists only a few hundred yards from million-dollar refuges for undeserving, maladjusted social climbers. Inherited wealth is all around me, and it makes me feel a bit sick about my own lot in life.

I'm trying to calm myself by intently listening to the tranquil sounds of seawater softly lapping at the bottoms of boulders, above which railroad tracks run parallel to the Puget Sound coastline as far as I can see. The tide is high. I'm all alone. Alone in my head. My very cold head. I pull the Mylar blanket tighter as I examine the tall chain-link fence in front of the crumbling fishing-pier.

The construction gate and various sections of fencing are cobbled together by a haphazard assortment of chains and padlocks, bailing wire and zip-ties. No Trespassing and Watkins Construction, LLC signs threaten various punishments for intruders, but most of it is obscured by graffiti and weather-damage. A plastic shopping bag rustles in the breeze, caught on the coil of barbed wire which runs along the top of the length of the fence.

I walk along the towering barrier until I find a hole. I easily step through, but my blanket gets caught. Annoyed, I wrap it around myself even tighter, holding onto it with both hands, my arms crossing my chest. I can feel the material stretching until it finally breaks free, sending me stumbling forward across the trash-strewn gravel. My blanket has already become a tattered rag, I perceive with dismay, feeling cold air rushing in around my back. But at least it is still crinkly and reflective, I conclude sarcastically.

About the Author

Alex Stefansson's writing is often influenced by sleep deprivation and too much caffeine. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Links:
Squandering Paradise: the blog of writer, Alex Stefansson