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Sunday, 6 April 2003  
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Trials and challenges of life

Compiled by Farah Macan Markar

" 'Tis"-A Memoir-the sequel to "Angela's Ashes"-winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize- by Frank McCourt.

"He reads "The Bed". I can feel the whole class looking at me and I'm ashamed. I'm glad Mike Small isn't in this class. She'd never look at me again.

There are girls in the class and they're probably thinking they should move away from me. I want to tell them this is a made-up story but Mr.Calitri is up there talking about it now, telling the class why he gave it an A, that my style is direct, my subject matter rich. He laughs when he says rich.

You know what I mean, he says. He tells me I should continue to explore my rich past, and he smiles again. I don't know what he's talking about. I'm sorry I ever wrote about that bed and I'm afraid everyone will pity me and treat me like a charity case.

The next time I have to take a class in English Composition I'll put my family in a comfortable house in the suburbs and I'll make my father a postman with a pension. (an extract from 'Tis)

"The Monkey-Puzzle Tree" by Elizabeth Nickson

The shocking events that unfold in Elizabeth Nickson's novel spring from shocking facts. During the fifties and sixties the CIA ran a series of programmes in mind control which used as guinea pigs ordinary American and Canadian citizens.

These people did not give their consent: indeed they were kept in complete ignorance of the nature of the experiments which incessantly exposed them to high levels of mind-altering drugs such as LSD combined with astonishingly high levels of electroshock and invasive assaults on memory and behaviour known as "psychic driving". In the name of research into brain-washing, the CIA cruelly misused people who had minor-ostensibly temporary- psychiatric complaints, such as post-natal depression, as was the case with the author's own mother.

"Murder in the Pettah" by Jeanne Cambrai

What was Dorothy Bell doing in the Pettah in the middle of the night? Who drove that knife so precisely through her heart?

When the body of a young English girl is found in one of the oldest and least attractive sections of Colombo, these are only some of the questions that pop into CV's mind. And when, to his surprise, her father comes and offers him the job of finding the murderer, CV, a computer whiz on leave from the US, finds himself an unlikely detective.

Aided by his cousin, the gorgeous supermodel Maggie VanderMarten, and his old and eccentric Aunt Maud, CV begins to ask questions, only to realize that he has a surfeit of suspects.

There is the apparently grief-stricken bisexual boyfriend who stands to inherit Dorothy's not inconsiderable wealth; the stiff English father with terrible secrets in his past; the suave Arab, Mahmoud, who had raped her once; and Bundy, the owner of Casino Vegas and one-time friend of CV's, who has mysteriously disappeared.

"Out of Sight" by Elmore Leonard

For Jack Foley, robbing a bank is as easy as knocking back a bottle of Jim Beam At 48, he's a little tired but smart enough to hitch a ride out of prison on someone else's breakout-straight into the arms of deputy US marshal Karen Sisco. A cool, leggy blonde, she doesn't need to use her Sig Saucer.38 to knock Foley sideways-a potentially lethal attraction that is heading nowhere fast. Unlike Karen, who follows Foley to Detroit where the countdown begins to the heist of the year.

"The giant book of vampires" edited by 
Stephen Jones

"Goodnight, my love. I offered you the world."

Sink your teeth into this gruesome collection of gory stories as the master of the macabre bring the dead to life.

This is the very best vampire fiction, from tales of tempting sirens to contemporary murders; from haunting doppelgangers to nefarious historical figures; from Nosferatu to the shady realms of the king of the undead himself, Count Dracular

"The undead...Nosferatu...Children of the them what you will, what they all have in common is a need to suck the life force from the living to prolong their own unnatural existence and propagate. For the classic vampire, The Blood is the Life..."(introduction)

"A dry Spell" by Susie Moloney

"Arbor Road is haunted. The man who walked there could not have known that, however, because it was a local legend... The worst stretch, "Slaughter Slide" had taken seven adults-two of them young mothers-and no fewer than nine teenagers since the road was paved in 1959".(an extract from "A dry Spell)

For the last four years the town of Goodlands has been stricken by drought. For the last two years its bank manager, Karen Grange, has been foreclosing on her clients-farmers, grainmerchants, shopkeepers, people who once waved a friendly hello in the streets but now have to grit their teeth to give her the time of day.

Then in the early hours of the morning Karen sees a TV interview with a man who claims he can make it rain and in desperation she writes to him.

Now, a year later, when she'd forgotten she'd ever sent the letter, at eleven o'clock at night, he's here, dusty and dishevelled, on her doorstep, asking for money she hasn't got, trust that she hardly dares to give.

Tom Keatley, the rainmaker, has come. And in his struggle for the soul of the dying town, all the powers of corrupted nature are about to be unleashed...

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