Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine WargaTitle: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Series: n/a

About: Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution–Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

My Thoughts: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga is a well-written story about a subject that might be difficult for some to read: teen suicide and depression. And it’s very well-written. I liked that there was really no wallowing. It wasn’t overly dark or bleak.

I really liked the characters, especially Aysel and Roman. Aysel is actually a great narrator. She is completely honest, and doesn’t tend to get overly dramatic. She paints a picture of the world as she sees it in a very matter-of-fact matter. And her description of the depression? Absolutely perfect. Aysel refers to it as the black slug living in her gut. It eats up everything — all emotions, good or bad — and just leaves her empty. As one who’s experienced such a thing, I could completely relate. Again, it’s right-on. Roman, while he’s struggling even more than Aysel, is an absolutely amazing character — book boyfriend? Definitely a contender! ;) Despite his obvious deep depression, he’s actually pretty sweet and clearly someone with a lot of potential. The two of them together are just perfect.

Watching Aysel open up to life, with the help of Roman (as mentioned in the synopsis, so I’m not spoiling anything ;) ), is something. She slowly, and quite naturally, sees that maybe life really isn’t all that bad. Maybe there is something worth holding onto. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a purpose and pushing forward to see what’s ahead would be a good thing.

What I like is that while this book deals with a heavy subject, it’s in no way overly dark negative. It’s a book filled with hope. I really like that. After the story, there is a list of resources — crisis lines and other such things — for anyone who might be in need of such. This book is written in such a way that it definitely has the potential of helping others.

4 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: My Heart and Other Black Holes is scheduled for release around February 10, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

Find me on Goodreads.com >>
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Review with Giveaway: The Knife’s Edge

The Knife's Edge by Matthew WolfTitle: The Knife’s Edge
Author: Matthew Wolf
Series: The Ronin Saga #1

About: When legends come to life the world trembles from a single name. Ronin. Once-heroes from a different age, they wield elemental powers… wind, water, fire, stone, forest, sun, moon, flesh, and metal.

At the same time, a young man discovers his best friend with a sword in her stomach, and dark wings sprouting from her back. Guards rush onto the scene, accuse him of the act, and he is forced to flee.

In a new world without his memories, Gray must find his way amid legends and darkness, as he wrestles with an elemental power inside himself.

A power all too similar to the infamous Ronin…

My Thoughts: As a huge fan of fantasy — especially epic fantasy — this sounded like just the book for me. Elemental powers? The idea kinda reminds me of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series — a huge favorite of mine. That was a huge pull.

The story is good. Well-imagined and compelling. I hate to say it, but I felt the book could use some good editing — there were times I found pronoun use made it vague and I often had to reread passages to know for sure who we’re talking about; in much of the book there is an overuse of commas. I hate to mention this, because the story itself is good — if you don’t get too distracted by these textual problems. At times I did find these things distracting, unfortunately. I think that made it harder for me to get into the story than I’d have liked. And once I was in, often some of these errors would jolt me back out of the story again. It was mildly frustrating.

Editing issues aside, I found the story interesting. Compelling. And even unique. Yes, the description reminded me of other stories, but this one stands on its own. Gray is an interesting character with a good heart. I found myself pulling for him. Some of his companions are really neat characters, and others I didn’t quite see their purpose. But that didn’t bother me all that much. Just made me wonder on occasion. (Perhaps in the next book, Citadel of Fire, they will have greater importance.) I definitely would like to continue the series and see what’s next for Gray and his friends. And his world.

If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, give The Knife’s Edge by Matthew Wolf a try. There’s even a chance to win a copy (see below)!

4 StarsSource: Received through Kismet Book Touring for review. (For more tour stops, click on the button below.)

blog tour

Read It: You can order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

Matthew WolfAbout the Author: Matthew Wolf is the author of THE RONIN SAGA, a nine part YA Epic Fantasy series. He also loves cake. Book two is out now, for sneak peek information on Matt and all things Ronin check out: roninsaga.com. He loves connecting with fans, those whirling blades really speak to his soul.  You can reach Matt at TheRoninSaga@Gmail.com, howl “Ronin” at the moon, or throw up a Wolf Signal in the sky.  All valid forms of communication.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Win It: Matt is generously offering up 5 eCopies of either The Knife’s Edge or Citadel of Fire (winner’s choice)! Please enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find me on Goodreads.com >>
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November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary, Day 30

Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. RoseAs previously explained, the month of November will feature a serialized novel — one post per day. The novel I’m sharing is November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. Rose. You can find more information on the introductory post.

This is Day 30, you can find the previous installment HERE. If you’re new to this series, you might want to start at the beginning. Each post has a link to the previous installment at the beginning.

Finally, please be aware that there might be some adult language and/or content.

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The Thirtieth

I did not know, when I ate my boiled eggs this morning, that it would be tonight, but when I followed Miss Jackson to the studio, she told me that the painting was done.

To my considerable surprise, it is a remarkable painting. It’s called “The Second Shadow”. There I am, walking down a long road through a sort of desert. I am walking toward the viewer, so to speak, and the sun is behind me, throwing my shadow ahead of me. Now, coming up alongside of my shadow is a second shadow, a shorter female one. And I am caught in the act of looking up to see who the thrower of this second shadow is, and seeing that where the thrower OUGHT to be, there is nobody, no body. And yes, I must say, there is a look of surprised defiance on my face that perfectly fits the scenario. For a moment there I thought the second shadow’s invisible thrower was Joan.

Imagine you are walking along the road, following your shadow, and another shadow comes alongside, which looks like the shadow of your late fiancée. But when you look up, there is no-one there. Just the shadow.

The fact of the matter is that the shadow is the artist’s. When she told me this and I re-inspected it, I saw that indeed it could have been thrown by no other body. Joan would be livid to think I mistook Miss Jackson’s rotund shadow for hers.

I said I thought the picture was brilliant. It is. And will she exhibit it or sell it? No, she won’t. She says she will not have a commercial value placed on her work.

“Apart from which,” she said, “if I were to exhibit, I would immediately become world famous – which I simply cannot be doing with at all.”

Incredible woman. How many artists are there who crave fame and rail against the world for not recognising their genius? About 92 million.

“I know exactly what you mean,” I said.

“You do?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “Your secret is safe with me.”

She showed me a lot of her work. I can’t describe it all. Not now. But at one point I said:

“What about when you’re dead?”

“I don’t know. I’ve yet to make up my mind. I’ll either leave them to a museum, with a stipulation that they aren’t to be sold. Or on the other hand, I may just pile them up on my island and have myself cremated on top of them.”

Oh Miss Jackson, when you said that, my heart just sank into my boots.

After lunch – soup and chicken sandwiches – I drove into town and bought the ingredients for my stew. While I was about it, I bought six packets of cotton wool, a litre of Coca Cola, and another couple of gallons of petrol, just to be on the safe side.

I returned to Sidewood and made the stew. I put the stew in the oven, and washed everything up. I didn’t want to leave a mess for Aggie, whom I had banished from the proceedings. While I made the stew, the full moon rose

Aggie came back into the kitchen. She conceded that something smelt good. I left her to peel the spuds and make dessert. It’s going to be Baked Alaska.

Miss Jackson was in her study. I went upstairs to get the Mogadon and the glass from the bedside table, and then went back downstairs. I went out the front door and took the petrol and the cotton wool and the Coca Cola out of the car.

Walking, or rather sneaking round the side of the house and down to the jetty, it struck me that the man in the moon looked like someone who found what I was doing rather funny. He’s up there now and still looks more than somewhat entertained. Though I doubt it’s by me in particular. More likely by everything.

I rowed over to the island, went into the hut, lit the candle in the saucer, and lit the paraffin heater.

I unwrapped the cotton wool and teased it out into long strips, then I lifted the petrol cans onto the table, unscrewed the tops and set it out so that one end of each cotton wool fuse was dangling over the edge of the candle saucer while the other end was in the petrol.

When I returned, after my last supper, when Miss Jackson and Aggie were safely tucked up in their respective beds, I would fill the saucer with petrol, relight the candle, take the Mogadon, fall asleep and, well, that was the plan.

So there I was, just about to blow out the candle and return to the house and my stew, when my attention was distracted by a noise in the doorway of the hut.

It was a rat!

A huge wet evil motherfucker, which had clearly just swum ashore, and it was looking at me out of its ghastly red eyes, and it was clearly displeased to find me in situ.

My heart leapt into my mouth. I leapt up onto the chair.

This was a mistake. The chair was flimsy and collapsed.

I flung out my arms to save myself, and in so doing crashed into the table with my shoulder, overturning petrol cans and candle.

I tried to grab the candle, but missed it.

 

WHOOOOSH!

 

I was consumed by fire.

 

Then I rose from the ashes.

 

If you want to know how that feels, ask a phoenix.

 

What can I say?

 

There I was, stark naked, alive again and kicking, under the beaming moon.

Then a breeze sprang up, which cleared away the last of the smoke, which was all that remained of Miss Jackson’s hut.

The dinghy was drifting away from me across the lake, trailing a charred rope, so I couldn’t row back.

I supposed I could swim back, but the thought of the lake’s nocturnal rodent denizens caused me to shudder. On the other hand, I didn’t have much choice.

Gingerly, I stepped into the freezing glassy lake, only to discover that I had stepped onto the freezing glassy lake. I did not sink. I was walking on the water.

Halfway across I looked up and saw that Miss Jackson and Aggie were standing on the pontoon, watching me walk towards them. The last thing I wanted at this particular juncture was an audience.

When I reached the pontoon, I stepped onto it.

Miss Jackson appraised my naked body with her twinkling artist’s eye and said: “Very impressive. Bravo.”

Aggie sort of whimpered and went down on her knees before me.

“Look, Aggie,” I said to her firmly, “this may be epiphenomenal, but it’s not religious. Do you understand? I am not in the least bit

I went back into the house, dressed myself in my Second Shadow suit and tie, picked up my Flying Eagle, said thank you and goodbye, climbed into the car and drove home.

I drove home.

I let myself in.

I made myself a cup of tea.

“Ralph? Is that you?”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There was Joan, in her pyjamas, yawning and blinking in the doorway.

I wasn’t all that surprised. So Joan was immortal too. It figured.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“I thought you were dead,” I said.

“Who told you that?”

“Orson,”

“He didn’t?”

“He did.”

“When?”

“Oh, you know, whenever it was. When you died.”

“Do I look dead to you?”

“Er, no.”

“I think we’ll go and have a talk with Orson – now.”

She went to get her dressing-gown, and then we went downstairs and woke the bastard up.

“Orson, you toad,” said Joan. “How dare you tell Ralph I was dead, when I wasn’t?”

You’re not going to believe this. He’d reached the point in his pathetic screenplay, when Joan was in the hospital and fighting for her life and, well, she’d won the fight, and she was on the mend, but Orson thought his story would be better if it ended with Joan dying. So, because he has no imagination, he’d come up and told me that Joan had died, in order to see how I would react!

“You bastard,” I said.

“I was going to tell you the truth,” said Orson, “as soon as I’d typed it up – but you buggered off. Where have you been?”

“None of your business.”

“I’m sorry,” said he

“Forget it,” said I.

Immortality’s like that. It gives you a different perspective and enhances your largesse.

Joan and I returned to the flat

“Let’s go to bed,” said Joan, and there was no mistaking her intentions.

“I’ll be right with you,” said I. “There’s something I have to do.”

“Don’t be too long.”

“If you fall asleep, I’ll wake you up.”

“I look forward to it, Ralph.”

“Me too.”

I located a biro in the right hand dresser drawer. I sat myself at the kitchen table, under the curtailed noose – wrote all this down

And now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s an offspring in the offing – and Joan awaits.

Oh look, it’s almost midnight.

November ends in 7 seconds.

4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Thank you so much for reading along with me! I hope you’ve enjoyed November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. Rose.

For more information about E.P.Rose and his books visit: http://www.tablethirteenbooks.com.
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November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary, Day 29

Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. RoseAs previously explained, the month of November will feature a serialized novel — one post per day. The novel I’m sharing is November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. Rose. You can find more information on the introductory post.

This is Day 29, you can find the previous installment HERE. If you’re new to this series, you might want to start at the beginning. Each post has a link to the previous installment at the beginning.

Finally, please be aware that there might be some adult language and/or content.

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The Twenty-Ninth

I was excused sitting altogether this morning, which was very convenient. At 9.30 sharp, I presented myself at the surgery of one Dr Simpson. I told him I was staying with Miss Jackson, and that I am suffering from a severe attack of tinnitus, which has been causing such a din inside my head that sleep has been rendered impossible. Could he give me something? Of course, I haven’t got tinnitus, but I remembered that Felix Parker used to suffer from it and took pills to help him sleep. Dr Simpson was quite happy to write me out a prescription for thirty Mogadon. I was shocked by his insouciance.

Mind you, if I was him, I doubt if it would have occurred to me to ask whether I was planning to take them with a view subsequently to setting fire to myself. That’s the thing about people who went to schools like mine – we tend to be deceptively plausible.

I went to Boots and swapped the prescription for the pills, the Mogadon.

Then I proceeded to the hardware store next to the newsagents, where I acquired the paraffin heater and a gallon of paraffin. I put these in the boot of the car. I also bought a box of white candles and a box of matches and a saucer from Woolworths.

Next stop, the petrol station. I put some in the car, and I filled the can in the boot. While I was about it, I bought another can. Then I went to the next petrol station and repeated the process. I missed lunch, as I had to go far afield. In the end, I settled for six gallons. That should do it. It’s going to be something of a cocktail – Texaco, Shell, BP, Esso. But six gallons ought to be enough. Not to mention the paraffin. I drove back here.

Berry was out front, when I pulled up on the gravel. He was pruning the wisteria, or whatever it is that grows over the house. I did not want him to see me take seven cans out of the boot, so I bade him a curt good afternoon and went into the house, through it, and out onto the verandah.

It’s getting colder all the time, but the sky today was clear and crisp and cold as anything. Then, as the sun went down, and the moon came up over the lake, looking perfectly colossal, Berry finally departed.

Miss Jackson was in her study, being a poetess. Aggie was in the kitchen. I opened the boot and carried the heater and the paraffin round the side of the house and down to the jetty. Three more trips and the dinghy was loaded. I rowed my cargo over to the island, into the moon. I took the paraffin and the heater out of the boat and stashed them in the hut. Then I pulled the boat round to the back of the island, out of sight of the house, and unloaded the cans of petrol, and stored them in the hut too.

I lit one of the candles and stuck it in the saucer. Then, I managed to get the heater going. I sat there for some time, huddled over it. Then I turned it off, blew out the candle, and rowed back to the jetty.

Roast chicken tonight. Followed by crême caramel. I don’t really know why, but I’ve offered to make them my stew for dinner tomorrow, and the offer has been accepted with some amusement by Miss Jackson and – well, Aggie has no choice in the matter. I think I might have to take one of those Mogadon right now. Funnily enough, I really do seem to have developed a ringing in my ears – but I don’t think it’s tinnitus. I think it’s probably my brain. I think it’s – actually I can barely think at all.

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Tune in tomorrow for the next installment!

For more information about E.P.Rose and his books visit: http://www.tablethirteenbooks.com.
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November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary, Day 28

Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. RoseAs previously explained, the month of November will feature a serialized novel — one post per day. The novel I’m sharing is November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. Rose. You can find more information on the introductory post.

This is Day 28, you can find the previous installment HERE. If you’re new to this series, you might want to start at the beginning. Each post has a link to the previous installment at the beginning.

Finally, please be aware that there might be some adult language and/or content.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Twenty-Eighth

No concession whatsoever is made to Sundays in this establishment. The routine continues regardless. Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Yummy, though I have to say that Joan’s hollandaise is superior to Aggie’s. Miss Jackson consumed three of them. The weather was so beautiful this morning. “No sun – no moon?” Quite the opposite. The moon is practically full now, illuminating the proceedings out there.

I was only needed for half an hour this morning. I went into the kitchen and located Aggie, who was slaving away as usual. I wanted someone to talk to, but she was useless, totally unforthcoming. So I drove into town, into Dumpster. Why is it that whenever you really want something, it’s always either Sunday or some dreadful bank holiday? In a shop window, I saw just the kind of paraffin heater I have in mind. It costs £54. I have one last lone cheque remaining in my cheque book. Well, one is enough. I bought a selection of Sunday papers and took them back to Sidewood. There’s nothing about Joan in them. I sat in front of the fire and read the papers up until lunch. Soup. Lamb sandwiches. Fruit.

It occurred to me they might have a heater somewhere in the house. I ferreted about a bit and found a couple of cans in the garage, which is the half of the stable block that isn’t the studio. But no heater.

Then I rowed on the lake, round and round the hut. Then I went back in and fell asleep in front of the fire. Then dinner, which was roast pork. The amount of farm animals that must pass through Sidewood’s portals and into Miss Jackson’s stomach is, well, I mean, I reckon that in any one given year she must consume something in the region of probably 52 chickens, 20 pigs, 20 lambs, and doubtless getting on for 4 to 5 cows – not to mention the odd turkey, duck, goose and, if she has her way this Christmas, swan.

Actually, she was quite chatty this evening. She obviously decided she was going to be inquisitive about me. She asked me about my parents, my schooling and my love-life.

“You don’t have a girl-friend?”

“Not at the moment,” I said.

“Are you gay?”

“No.”

“Your friend’s gay, isn’t he?”

“Who? Oh, you mean Orson. Yes, he does tend to be.”

“But you tend not to be?”

“That’s right.”

Then I asked her when she’s likely to finish the painting. I feel that the least I can do is wait till she’s done it. Apart from which, I’m keen to see it.

“You are going to let me see it?”

“It all depends,” she grinned.

“On what?”

“On whether I think it’s good enough.”

We went into the drawing-room. Miss Jackson played the guitar. I did the Observer crossword in about fifteen minutes flat. Then I fell to staring at the fire.

The fire. The flames.

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Tune in tomorrow for the next installment!

For more information about E.P.Rose and his books visit: http://www.tablethirteenbooks.com.
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November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary, Day 27

Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. RoseAs previously explained, the month of November will feature a serialized novel — one post per day. The novel I’m sharing is November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. Rose. You can find more information on the introductory post.

This is Day 27, you can find the previous installment HERE. If you’re new to this series, you might want to start at the beginning. Each post has a link to the previous installment at the beginning.

Finally, please be aware that there might be some adult language and/or content.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Twenty-Seventh

Mist. After breakfasting on kippers, I walked for half an hour through the mist. Round and down to the little jetty I walked and peered across the lake at the little island. It looked just like the very centre of the entire universe to me. And indeed it looks like the very centre of the entire universe to me now, under the moon, through this window.

On the way back up from the lake to the studio, I was accosted by an elderly grizzled gentleman wearing dirty tweeds and Wellington boots, who turns out to be the gardener here, name of George Berry. When I told him that I am a guest, while Miss Jackson paints me, he said:

“She painted me once.”

“Really? What was it like?”

“Never saw it.”

“Is that because you didn’t want to or she didn’t let you?”

“No, she was going to show it me, when she finished – but she never did in the end.”

“What? Never finished it?”

“Something went wrong. I don’t know.” He didn’t seem to care. I went off to my sitting. Her capacity for concentration is remarkable. I sat there, thinking about being immortal and everything. The fact of the matter is that when it all boils down to it, I do actually FEEL immortal. The more I think about it, the more I find it hard to believe that I’m not.

Finally, I was dismissed, and I went to look for Berry, whom I found in the kitchen garden, putting down mousetraps under the frames there.

Berry told me that he has been working as a gardener in these parts for an incredible fifty years. I was fascinated to learn that the lake is only nine years old. It used to be all gardens, but the previous owner became too old and too poor to maintain them. Rather than watch it all go to rack and ruin, he flooded them and made the lake.

“Did you see it?” I asked, thinking that the making of the lake must have been a sight most wondrous to behold.

“I did,” said a tight-lipped Berry.

“How exciting!”

“Saddest day of my life.” he said.

“Well, I must say, I love the lake.”

“Ah, but you should’ve seen it before. Roses. You’ve never seen the like. And he had a maze.”

“You’re kidding.”

But it seems he wasn’t kidding. There’s a maze down there. An underwater maze.

I went into lunch. Soup and turkey sandwiches yet again. I went on the lake after lunch. First of all, I rowed round it. I looked for the maze. Not visible. Then I tethered the dinghy to the island and climbed onto it. I went into the hut and sat on the chair and looked out of the window at the waterfall. I thought: Well, here I am at the centre of the universe. Of course, the great thing about infinity is that it allows you to believe whatever the hell you want, with regard to where you are. Nobody can prove Miss Jackson’s hut is not the centre of the universe, if I say it is. You only know what the centre of something is, when you know where it begins and where it ends – when you can see the whole shape. Infinity, being so, well, infinite, its centre could be anywhere. I say it’s the hut.

It was then that I decided that it will be in this hut, on this island, in the middle of this lake, in the middle of this whole preposterous universe, that I am going to discover once and for all whether or not I’m immortal.

Then, all at once, the perfect plan popped up inside my head, one which will not only settle beyond a shadow of doubt the immortality question, but which will also grant me my wish of ending my days here on the island, if I’m not – i.e.: setting fire to myself, in the hut, on the island.

The only trouble with this is that of all the ways of being killed, being burned to death is one of my least favourite. I briefly considered weighing myself down with stones and throwing myself into the lake. A vision of frogmen searching the lake and getting lost down there in the maze made me chuckle. But if I drown and die and do not come back to life again, they’ll be bound to find my body and they’ll bury it somewhere else. And if I drown and do come back to life again, I still won’t be absolutely sure whether resurrection actually took place. How would I ever know whether I did actually die? No – that’s the great thing about fire. If I reduce myself to ash, and then come back to life again, then there’ll be absolutely no doubt left in my mind, and I will be able to – well, I don’t know exactly what I’ll do, but at least I’ll know.

Alright. Fire. I made an executive decision. Fire it is.

By this time it was pretty cold – so I rowed back to the mainland.

Then I thought: Suppose I take some sleeping pills and render myself unconscious prior to setting fire to myself. Well, yes, good idea. But how do you then propose to set fire to yourself, while you’re unconscious? No problem, comes the reply. I’ll set a fuse! Oh yeah? What kind of a fuse?

The solution to this problem arrived just before dinner. I reckon the best thing to do is to put a candle in a saucer full of petrol. I’ll light the candle, take the pills, and when they candle burns down – hey presto!

There was roast leg of lamb for dinner, followed by plum pie and ice-cream – à la mode. Miss Jackson was preoccupied with whatever it is that preoccupies her. I was free to let my mind wander over the practical side of things. To start with, I am going to need petrol. Lots of it. The question is, how am I going to get it over to the island? Could I do it all by stealth and hope not to be observed? But then I run the risk of someone seeing me. I need a reason for taking petrol to the island.

I know, I thought, I can get hold of one of those paraffin heaters, and if anyone sees me carrying a can hutward, I can claim that it’s paraffin for the heater. Brilliant.

Now, do I ask for permission? Miss Jackson doesn’t seem to care what I do, provided I’m there in the mornings for her painting. The thing to do is to go ahead and acquire the paraffin heater. Tomorrow would be bloody Sunday.

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Tune in tomorrow for the next installment!

For more information about E.P.Rose and his books visit: http://www.tablethirteenbooks.com.
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November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary, Day 26

Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. RoseAs previously explained, the month of November will feature a serialized novel — one post per day. The novel I’m sharing is November: Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary by E.P. Rose. You can find more information on the introductory post.

This is Day 26, you can find the previous installment HERE. If you’re new to this series, you might want to start at the beginning. Each post has a link to the previous installment at the beginning.

Finally, please be aware that there might be some adult language and/or content.

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The Twenty-Sixth

The early morning routine this morning was the same as yesterday. Only, on Fridays at Sidewood, kedgeree is on the breakfast menu – and very good kedgeree it is too.

Miss Jackson said: “I want you to wear a suit.”

“I don’t have a suit.”

“You will find your costume laid out on the bed in the room next to yours.”

At five minutes to nine, Miss Jackson went off to her studio to prepare.

“I’ll want you at 9.30 sharp.” And off she toddled.

I went upstairs and there on the bed in the room next to mine was a grey flannel suit and a white shirt and a black knitted silk tie and a pair of Trickers slip-on shoes along with a new pair of Argyle socks.

Come the appointed hour, dressed up in the suit and the tie and the shoes and the socks, all of which fitted, I knocked on the studio door.

“Come in,” she trilled.

She was ensconced in a blue denim painter’s smock, much smeared with paint. I noticed that her Alice band was blue denim too. An easel was set up – a nice low one, convenient for her lack of height. On it was a canvas about three feet square.

She told me I looked very smart and sat me down on a high stool, facing her.

“Now, turn your head to the right,” she commanded.

I obeyed.

“Very good. Now look down a bit. Up a bit. Down. Great. That’s fine. Now stand up and do the same thing.”

Being an artist’s model is an extremely boring job. For a start, I wasn’t allowed to talk. Talking spoils her concentration. Then, I’m not allowed to see what she’s painting. I’m looking at the back of the canvas, and there’s a sort of five-foot exclusion zone inside of which I’m not allowed to come. There’s nothing much to look at in the studio. There are a lot of canvasses up her end of it, but they have all been turned to face the wall. To start with, watching la Jackson pop out from behind her canvas, palette in one hand, brush in the other, like a sort of Toulouse Lautrec glove puppet, and then pop back out of sight behind the canvas, was pretty hilarious. But I didn’t dare laugh. And then it began to pall. Every fifteen minutes or so I would sit down on the stool for five minutes. After I’d been there for what seemed like forever, but was in fact an hour and three quarters, she told me to go, and I went.

Deeply curious with regard to Miss Jackson’s artistic output, I went off to interrogate Aggie, whom I discovered polishing the dining-room table.

“Hello,” I said.

She acknowledged me with a nod, and carried on polishing.

“Tell me,” I said, “have you ever seen any of Miss Jackson’s paintings?”

“No,” she said, without looking up. Then I realised that she was looking at my reflection in the gleaming table top.

“Has anybody ever seen them?”

“I don’t know.”

“What about her poems?”

“What about them?”

“Ever read any of them?”

“No.”

“Aren’t you curious?”

She thought about this for a moment, but her answer was still: “No.”

Then I noticed her looking at my right hand again.

I said to her straight out:   “What is it about my hand?”

She pretended not to have heard.

“That time, last time, you saw something.”

She simply shook her head, but I noticed that her polishing intensified.

“You did see something, didn’t you?”

“Excuse me,” she said – and she picked up her Pledge and left the room.

I headed out into the open air.

This place – it really is, well, perfect. Stuff Howard’s End. If it was mine, I’d never move – and when I died, I’d have myself buried on the island in the middle of the lake.

I wonder what Miss Jackson does for sex. If I manage to persuade her to marry me, will she require me to do my stuff? And even if she doesn’t, will the will be valid, if I don’t?

I went for a row on the lake.

I was still at it, when Aggie appeared on the verandah and called me in to lunch. Imagine: this place AND regular mealtimes. Breakfast. Lunch. Tea. Dinner. And all you have to do is turn up and eat them. I mean, that’s about 99.99% of the battle, isn’t it – a roof over your head and regular mealtimes, cooked by someone else.

Over lunch, which consisted of home-made tomato soup and turkey sandwiches, I tried to imagine being married to Miss Jackson. The idea is so outlandish, it is almost acceptable. No – I think the best idea would be for me to try to persuade her to adopt me. I don’t know whether that’s a problem with both my parents still being alive – but after running out on my mother like that, I don’t doubt she’d be more than willing to disown me.

For dinner, we had potted shrimps, which brought back memories, followed, more or less inevitably, by curried turkey and rice.

“What will you have for Christmas then?” I asked.

“Goose, I suppose,” said Miss Jackson, “unless we can get hold of a swan. What do you think, Aggie? Any chance of a swan for Christmas?”

“I’ll have a word with Potter,” said Aggie, as she cleared away the plates.

“Our local poacher,” said Miss Jackson, giving me a preposterous wink. “Good. I would love to eat swan. Have you ever eaten swan, Mr Conway?”

“Can’t say that I have,” I confessed, laughing.

“It went very well this morning. I hope you weren’t too bored.”

“Oh,” I said, and made a sort of disclamatory gesture with my hands, palm upward. It so happened that this gesture, this somewhat French gesture, caused my right palm to end up right under Aggie’s nose. She was leaning in to remove my plate. And she couldn’t apparently help being transfixed by whatever it was that she saw there in the palm of my right hand.

I moved my hand away from her gaze and said:

“Look, I’m sorry, but this is beginning to spook me.”

This being what?” wondered Miss Jackson in an entertained tone of voice.

“She keeps looking weirdly at me all the time. I’m sorry, Aggie, but you do. Now, if you’ve got something on your mind, spit it out.”

A guilty look passed from Aggie to her boss, and finally, Miss Jackson said to me in a tone of some amusement:

“I’m afraid poor Aggie is suffering under the lunatic delusion, Mr Conway, that you are immortal.”

I could have died! I certainly felt sick. I gave a sickly smile. I turned toward Aggie: “You do?”

She just looked at me.

“Why?”

She hesitated, then she asked for my hand, and I gave it to her. After her last miserable attempt at palmistry, I was somewhat impatient with all this. Her eyes focused in on my hand.

“There you are,” she said. “You see? It’s completely broken. It stops – and then it starts again.”

I looked at Miss Jackson, who was grinning like a goblin – then turned my attention back to Aggie.

“What’s completely broken?”

“Look.”

She ran her finger down the long line nearest my thumb. Her fingertips sent a little run of electricity along the line – which was and is indeed broken. It stops and starts again.

“What is it?”

“That’s your Lifeline,” she replied, in a tone of voice that suggested: “Any fool knows that, surely.”

She showed me hers. Continuous. I had a look at Miss Jackson’s small and podgy palm. Continuous lifeline.

“Aggie,” I asked, “what exactly are you suggesting?”

“I told you,” said Miss Jackson “She thinks you’re immortal.”

I began feeling extremely agitated all over, but attempted an air of suave insouciance.

“Well, that’s very interesting,” I commented, in a jocular and somewhat condescending tone of voice. “I mean, Aggie, what are you saying?” I realised that she was still holding my hand. “Oh, and I’ll have this back now, if you don’t mind.” I retrieved my hand and held it up casually to my face. “So, you think I’m immortal, eh? You think that because my lifeline stops and starts again a couple of millimetres away, you think I must have died and come back to life as myself? Well, I must say, that’s very amusing.”

“I think we’ll have our dessert now, Aggie, please,” said Miss Jackson, on whose list of priorities my immortality obviously comes well below her stomach.

I ate the bread and butter pudding in a haze. I passed on coffee, invented a headache and retreated up here.

I’ve been staring at my palm, trying desperately to remember whether my lifeline was broken or not before. It’s not something of which I’ve ever been conscious. Alright, I accept that the suicide pill was L.S.D., and that wouldn’t kill me – unless I threw myself off a high building, died, and came back to life again sometime between leaving the house and coming down on Westminster Bridge. But that’s not likely. I have no memory of it. Mind you, it’s not TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE.

And, sure, I accept what the doctor had to say about the overdose that I took being unlikely to be fatal. But he didn’t state categorically that it couldn’t have killed me. He just said it wouldn’t be unrealistic for some fictional character in some non-existent film to survive after ingesting those quantities of those pills.

And what about the fridge?

I think I could well have died on any one of a number of occasions just in the last month. If only I’d known about my lifeline being such an accurate reflection of, well, my life. Why wasn’t I told this at school? I’m sure that if I’d been told this, I would have monitored my palmic development with considerable interest.

When Doubting Thomas demanded to see Jesus’ hands, what exactly was he checking? The wounds or the lifeline?

I can’t just leave it like this. I must know the truth.

But how?

I suppose I could always go on hunger strike. That would have a certain poetic whatsit to it. I wonder how Aggie and Miss Jackson would handle that. If I’m not immortal, I can think of no better place than here to fade gently away – and then to be buried on the island in the middle of the lake and to be a part of this paradise forever and so become immortal after all.

But of course that won’t happen. It’ll be poor Joan’s way. The hospital. The terminal ward. And that is not for me. No way. No sirree. I ain’t scared to die, but I’m damned if I’m gonna terminate.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment!

For more information about E.P.Rose and his books visit: http://www.tablethirteenbooks.com.
~*~

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