Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Fact or Fiction?

July 2, 2015 (Recounted by Princila Murrell)

            ‘This can't be happening,’ I dropped the pen that I had been chewing for the past thirty minutes or so.

The girl standing at the entrance of my study looked exactly like Courtney ‘Cougar’ Parker, the main character in my middle grade novel Girl of the Book. How this blonde girl found herself in my study was beyond my understanding.

I had locked the main door of my flat before retiring to my study, a habit that I had cultivated after my neighbour, sixty-two-year-old Ms Hatcher was robbed two years ago.

‘What is this place and how did I get here?’ she said, looking around.

For a moment I considered opening the window and jumping out. That would be totally stupid, I thought. My flat was on the fourth floor.

I stole a quick glance at the open door. If this young girl was a ghost, it would be absolutely pointless for me to sprint out of the room. I had read enough about ghosts to know this.

‘This is my study, and I don't know how you got here,’ I said, trying to keep my voice steady. She was only a girl, I tried to remind myself. But who knew what a ghost child could do to a thirty-something-year-old woman who spent most of her day sitting behind a desk, writing and crafting characters? 

‘I must be dreaming,’ I said a little too loudly.

She spun around, eyes filled with curiosity and doubt. ‘What do you mean?’

            ‘I…’ I wiped my moist hands on my skirt and continued, ‘I created a young character who looks just like you in my middle grade novel Girl of the Book,’ I said. ‘A twelve-year-old girl called Courtney Parker.’

Her lower lip trembled and she took a few steps backward. ‘Who are you and how do you know my name? What's happening to me?’ She pressed both palms over her ears and screamed. ‘Where are my parents? And my brother Pete?’

‘Dear,’ I attempted to say, rising slowly from behind my desk, ‘there's no need to scream. I'm just as scared as you and I don't know what's happening either. Would you take a seat and tell me how you got in here?’

She dropped her hands to her sides and looked at the calendar on my desk. ‘2015?’

‘What?' I asked, not sure why my calendar had suddenly become an object of interest.

‘When I went to bed it was 15 August 2011.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘it was the 15th of August 2011. I'm very sure about this. Miss Lopez, my new class teacher, wrote it on the board when I took the placement test at my new school.’

 August 15, 2011 (Recounted by Courtney Parker)

My new life in Saudi Arabia was boring. And this is just a nice way of saying that life is not fun here. Mum said I had to wear this big, shapeless, black robe called abaya over my dress whenever I went out. All women in Saudi had to wear one, she had said. I was determined I would never wear it—even if I had to spend the rest of the summer indoors. But when Mum called my new school and was told that all new students had to take a placement test on 15 August, two weeks before school reopened, I knew I couldn’t escape any more: I would have to wear that black robe. I would have been even more nervous if I’d known I was going to be under the scrutiny of other new students who would come to take the test.

‘Cougar, we’re running late,’ Mum shouted from the corridor. ‘It’s seven twenty. Hurry up!’

I stared at the abaya, which Mum had proudly pressed and hung in my wardrobe. I held it up in front of me, contemplating whether I should wear it or ditch it. It looked like a rectangular parachute that had been folded into two and sewn on the sides, leaving two openings for the arms and another one in the middle for the head to stick out. Even as I wore it over my Benetton T-shirt and jeans, I thought I looked like a giant walking pillowslip.
The car was quiet as we drove to the new school. A few minutes later, Dad slowed down and stopped in front of a building with a very high fence and enormous green gates. There was a large sign above the main gate with the words JAMEELA INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL FOR GIRLS. Below these words was something written in Arabic, which I guessed was the Arabic translation of the school’s name.

We were greeted by a lady at reception. She asked us to sit in a hall with other mothers and their daughters, who had also come to take the test. Mum pushed the doors to the hall and Pete and I followed her. Several pairs of eyes stared at us when we stepped into the hall, making me feel like an alien on its first visit to Earth. I felt weirder when I noticed that most of the other students looked cool in their abayas, which they wore like overcoats. Unlike mine, their abayas had a zipper or buttons at the front, but they left them unzipped or unbuttoned, flashing their awesome dressing underneath.

‘Good morning and welcome to Jameela International School,’ a red-haired lady walked into the hall and said. ‘I’m Mrs Jill Zimmerman, coordinator of middle school. I’ve met some of you before, I mean the mothers. For those of you whom I’m meeting for the first time, I wish to say it’s a pleasure to have you here this morning.’

She coughed, then she continued. ‘Now, girls, you’re going to come upstairs with me, to room Seven A, while your mothers wait for you here. No worries. You’ll all be brought back here after your test.’ She smiled and urged us to follow her.

I stood up. Mum squeezed my hand. ‘It’s going to be easy, honey.’

I forced myself to smile and fell in behind the other girls, who trod behind Mrs Jill. We arrived at a room at the end of a corridor. There were desks in the room and a larger one, which was probably the teacher’s, at the front. A dark-haired lady was at the back of the room, sticking pictures on a board. She quickly came to the front, smiling when she saw us. Her narrow eyes blinked several times, moved from one kid’s face to the other and finally settled on mine. She grinned and I smiled back.

‘Meet Ms Lopez,’ Mrs Jill said. ‘She’s going to sit with you while you take the test.’

‘Hello, girls.’ She shook each of our hands and asked us to take a seat. I rapidly counted: we were nine in number.

‘I’ll be in my office if you need me,’ Mrs Jill said to the lady. Then she turned to us and said, ‘Girls, if you have any questions, just ask Ms Lopez. OK?’

‘OK,’ some of the girls replied. I nodded.

After the test, Ms Lopez asked us to stay in our seats while she marked our scripts.

‘Well, well…’ she said after checking our scripts. ‘Most of you did well in the test. Only two of you will have to come back next week to take the test again.’ She arranged our scripts in a stack and said,

‘I’ll just give these to Mrs Jill, and I’ll be right back within a few minutes. You can take this time to get to know each other.’

The class was quiet when she left. I noticed the girls were glancing at me and whenever their eyes met mine, they shifted their gaze. One of them, a wide-eyed girl, finally spoke. ‘Where are you from?’

‘Are you American?’ another girl asked before I had time to answer.

‘No, I’m from South Africa,’ I replied, trying not to sound bothered by their curious looks.

‘No way!’ one of the girls to my right exclaimed. She had a brown abaya decorated with sequins on the front, and a matching scarf hung around her neck. Her skin was fair, just like mine. Her hair was a pale brown, and it hung in beautiful curls that seemed to spring whenever she moved her head. ‘You can’t be African. You’re white…’

‘You’re also white,’ I remarked.

I was referring to her alone because her skin was lighter than those of the other girls. But she probably misunderstood me because she said, ‘We’re not white. We’re brown.’ She pulled the sleeve of her abaya up her arm and stroked her skin, as if to emphasise her point. ‘Arabs are brown. Africans are black and you’re not. So where are you from?’

‘I’m from South Africa. There are white and black people in South Africa if you didn’t know,’ I said, a little angry.

‘Fine, fine. So are you Muslim?’ the girl in the brown abaya said.


They gasped as if I had said an abomination.

‘You’re not?’ One girl spoke for the first time. She had long straight hair, and her skin was a little darker than those of the other girls. ‘You don’t pray?’

‘What do you mean by I ‘don’t pray’?’ I asked. ‘I pray every day before meals and when I go to bed.’

‘No, not that kind of prayer,’ the wide-eyed girl said. ‘We mean salat.’

Salat? What’s that?’ I asked.

‘Prayer, stupido.’ The girl in the brown abaya rolled her eyes.

‘Now, look…’ I was about to say when Ms Lopez walked into the classroom. I glared at the girl in the brown abaya. Whatever her name was, I hoped we weren’t going to be in the same class.
 When I went to bed that night, I thought about my new school and the girl in the brown abaya and all the other mean girls. I cringed and wished with all my heart that I could be somewhere else…somewhere far from my new school, my new home, my new neighbourhood.

July 2, 2015 (Recounted by Princila Murrell)

…To be continued.  


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Trial by Fear by Bruce Arrington


A defeated kingdom. A forgotten prince. A powerful resurrection. 

Raised by goblins for as long as he can remember, Beon's life amounts to no more than abject slavery. His world view is warped to the point of no return. 

In a desperate act of self preservation, Beon tries to leave his past behind. But he pays the ultimate price as the goblins hunt him down. 

Then the kindness of a stranger with great powers gifts Beon with a new life, one with promise for a future, if only he can control that which has crippled his ability to function normally: his fears.


Trial by Fear is an interesting story about a teenage boy called Beon, who was captured by goblins as a baby. Throughout his young years, he was ridiculed by the goblins, who never hesitated to insult or make fun of him. Tired of the mistreatment (little sleep, poor nutrition), Beon finally decides to escape. Unfortunately, he is caught by the goblins and killed. He is given a new life by Calandria. Calandria has plans for Beon, but he doesn't know what is in store for him...

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it is well written and the storyline holds the attention of the reader. I also enjoyed the main character Beon because his character development from a scared teenager with low self-confidence to someone who was willing to risk his life to save a new found friend, the tor-asvor, was enjoyable to follow. I believe the main theme of this story is overcoming fear--Beon was taught how to trust himself to conquer the fears that the goblins had instilled in him. 

My main criticism is that this book was very short. However, it was a very enjoyable story and I would highly recommend it to lovers of YA fantasy. 

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Bruce Arrington wrote the first two installments of the teen Josh Anvil Series, and the first of the Fallen Powers Series. He also wrote The Seventh Birthday Wish and The Eighth Birthday Wish, for young children. His most recent work, "The Legend of Skaluni", is a short fantasy story. Currently Bruce lives in Paisley, Oregon, with his family and several spoiled pets.


Amazon US
Amazon UK

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Girl of the Book 2

I have gotten many comments about Courtney and Nizar. :-) Even while I was writing Girl of the Book, I knew their relationship would not go very far and thought that even if they had to get any closer, it was going to take a long time. Plus we're in Saudi Arabia, remember?

It's not like people don't date in Saudi Arabia. They do, actually, but it is not the classic boy comes to the girl's doorstep, rings the bell and waits, says hello to her dad or mum and gets invited in to wait for his date to come downstairs. lol. That doesn't happen here. There are no movie theatres or nightclubs where teens go and have fun or anything of the like, but there are other ways that teens have fun.

Want to find out whether Courtney becomes friends with Nizar again? Rendez-vous in book 2.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Offside Trap by AJ Stewart


A university president with delusions of grandeur. A property developer with mob ties. A crooked politician fast-tracking projects for cash. Just another day in South Florida.
When Miami Jones is hired by an old college friend to investigate the drug overdose of a star student-athlete, he is thrust into the dark intersection of academia, politics and the Miami drug world, where he finds himself fighting to not just solve the crime, but to save those he loves most.
If you love Florida mysteries, Florida fiction or just crazy men's adventure novels, you'll love South Florida's new favorite detective in Offside Trap.


Offside Trap is a story about a private investigator Miami Jones who is called in by an old friend to investigate a drug overdose incident at their university. As Miami Jones carries out his investigation, he gets caught up in a situation that jeopardizes his and his loved ones lives.

The writing was good and the characters were well developed. The story line was OK though the pacing was a little slow initially, and I didn't get hooked until I was at least half-way into the book. The other half kept me reading and wanting more because of the twists to the story.

Overall, this was a good read, and I would recommend it to anyone who's looking forward to reading a good detective story. 

4/5 stars


A.J. Stewart has lived in so many places it feels like he has a home team in every game he sees. Which explains why his wife begins any sports telecast with "who are we going for today?" A.J. and his family currently spend their time in Los Angeles and South Florida, but stay tuned, anything could happen. He is the author of the Miami Jones Florida Mystery series.    



Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Blog Tour "Girl of the Book"

Good morning. I'm sitting in my living room and yawning as I 'm writing this. I've been up all night long. I didn't have nightmares or anything of that sort. It has just been very difficult to sleep when I have a pile of work waiting for me. And then there is my blog tour, which has to start today.

I glance at the clock. It says nine thirty. I check the time in New York. Google says it's one thirty am. Yawn...This means I still have four to five hours to kill before posting a "Thank you!" comment on my host's blog. I may be very tired, but I'm really looking forward to starting this blog tour.

Below is a list of my tour stops:

January 14: LibriAmoriMiei
January 21: Straight from the Library
January 28: Unabridged Andra's
February 4: Books in the Hall

And while I'm thinking of ways of keeping my eyelids open , my baby girl is sitting across the room and making faces at me. Just hoping that's a good luck sign. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Another Nice One

"Type until your fingers bleed," one author said. This was his advice to authors who were a few days to publishing their book. 

I did type a lot to get the word out there, but not enough to end up with bleeding fingers:-). I've been working a lot pre-publication to get as many readers to review my book, an extremely mentally-draining process. I got a few reviews, some barely two sentences long but all the same, some nice people that I didn't know took the time to review my book. I was particularly touched by one reviewer's thoughts about Girl of the Book.  Below is Kimberly's review:
Girl of the Book by Princila Murrell is an interesting and engaging story about a South African family that moves to Saudi Arabia for the father’s two-year work assignment. I was concerned that this would be a preachy book for kids about how all Muslims are wonderful and all Christians are intolerant and arrogant, but I was pleasantly surprised by a balanced story line with realistic characters that struggle with real life situations.
The new-girl-in-school problems found in many tween and teen books are magnified in this book.  Despite her parents’ careful instructions, Courtney still manages to violate cultural rules regularly, even though she tries not to cause trouble.  Many of her classmates at school don’t help--and even work to get her into more trouble. Two young people, a girl and a boy, are the only ones kind to her. Unfortunately, their kindness to Courtney causes them problems with some family members and classmates, too.
This was a wonderful book that respected both religious traditions while showing how difficult it can be for the two cultures to understand one another. There are no objectionable elements, so parents can confidently hand this excellent story to young readers, even very young children who read well above grade level.