Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Title: Beautiful Malice
Author: Rebecca James

Release Date: 1st May 2010

My Rating: 3/5

'Truth or dare?' she asks.
I hesitate. 'Truth,' I say finally. 'I can imagine one of your dares, and I don't fancy running down Oxford Street naked tonight.'
'Truth,' Alice says slowly, drawing out the vowel sound as if she's savouring the word. 'Are you sure? Are you sure you can be completely honest?'
'I think so. Try me.'
'Okay.' And then she looks at me curiously. 'So. Were you glad, deep down? Were you glad to be rid of her? Your perfect sister? Were you secretly glad when she was killed?'

Katherine has moved away from her shattered family to start afresh in Sydney. There she keeps her head down until she is befriended by the charismatic, party-loving Alice, who brings her out of her shell. But there is a dark side to Alice, something seductive yet threatening. And as Katherine learns the truth about Alice, their tangled destinies spiral to an explosive and devastating finale.

I had read quite a few reviews of this before picking it up. Some were good, some were bad so I decided to give it a go, and I am so glad I did. While I wouldn't say it is one of my favourite reads, it is something that stayed with me well after finishing, going over the storyline and the characters in my head. This is Australian author Rebecca James' debut novel and I can see why it caused such a frenzied bidding war. Beautiful Malice is a rather disturbing psychological thriller written for young adults, although I would place it as a 15+ novel. It is so well written and is so suspenseful that you just keep sitting there reading, even when you know you should be going to bed for fear of sleeping through your alarm the next morning!

The story is told from three different stages in Katherine's life. Each chapter is told from one of these time periods, weaving between the three until we have a complete picture of Katherine's life and the shocking and horrifying conclusion. Interestingly enough, the part of the story that I think of as the 'present day' actually isn't. Stage one describes the night Katherine's sister Rachel is killed. Stage two is set two years later when Katherine has moved to Sydney to try and have a fresh start and to complete her HSC. This is the stage where most of the story takes place and where Katherine meets the diabolical character of Alice. Stage three is set four years after stage two, and this shows us how Katherine is dealing after the events occurring in stage two. This may sound confusing, but don't worry, it's not, the story flows extremely well.

Rebecca James has created such a fantastic cast of characters. They are unique, well described, free of clich├ęs, and with the exception of one or two, the kind of people you would want to be friends with. I must say that to me, and probably most other readers, the most disturbing part of the book isn't Rachels' death, although it is truly horrible, but the character of Alice. When Katherine finally realises just how toxic Alice is in her life, it's far too late. Alice is someone who has no conscience, or if she does, she pays no heed to it. Just when you think Alice can't get any worse, she does something else that just pushes those around her to their limits. I found that I was getting so angry with Alice and the way she was treating the characters that I love, that I just wanted to protect them, I felt as if they had become my friends. To me, this is an amazing ability of an author to evoke such strong feelings in a reader.

This is a fantastic psychological thriller about love, death, pain, friendship, betrayal, loss and strength.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Truth About Leo by David Yelland

Title: The Truth About Leo
Author: David Yelland


Release Date: 10th May 2010


My Rating: 5/5

'It had happened again. Dad had shouted and yelled, thrown things and smashed things up. And then he had quietly cleaned everything away'.
Leo's dad has changed. Since Mum died, his drinking is worse and now he's a different person, someone Leo doesn't recognise. The truth is that Leo is covering up for him and when things get bad Leo escapes into his own head, pretending every thing's OK. Things need to change, but what can Leo do? No one understands, except maybe his friend Flora. Leo wants his old dad back so they can be happy again - because Dad is all he has left.

This was one of the most heart-wrenching and powerful books I have ever read. I felt so much pain for this little boy whose life was completely miserable, I just wanted to reach out and hug him. It is an important story about friendship and love, and that no matter how bad things get, there will always be someone out there who cares, and that you are not alone with your suffering. Life can get better.

Ten-year-old Leo lives everyday with the pain of having lost his Mum to cancer. He also lives with a secret; he's lost his Dad as well. Leo's father is an alcoholic, and everyday Leo works to keep this a secret from those around him, because if someone were to find out, he would be taken away; from his Dad, their house and the memories of his mother. He never knows what mood his father will be in, and his school life is no better. Due to all the problems at home, his school work and attendance has suffered and he is constantly bullied by his horrible teacher and the other kids. As a coping mechanism, Leo has created his own world, Planet Leo, one he can escape to when things get bad, remembering the time he spent with his Mum and dreaming about an alternative life for himself. But Leo can't escape from everything, and one devastating afternoon, his secret is discovered.


'Inside the house, Leo and Dad were actors in a play that played every day and every night. But they were the only audience too.'


Leo has a highly unstable home life, one where he is the parent, taking care of his father like a child. While this is a story told from the perspective of a 10 year old, it does deal with adult issues, and should only be read by mature ten-year-olds and upwards. It would also be the kind of book that a parent and child could read together with the benefit being the issues could be further explained.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

Title: Spirit Bound
Series: Vampire Academy Book 5
Author: Richelle Mead

Release Date: 18th May 2010

My Rating: 5/5

After a long and heartbreaking journey to Siberia, Dimitri's birthplace, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir's - and to her best friend Lissa Dragomir. It's graduation, and the girls can't wait for their real lives outside of the academy's cold iron gates to finally begin. But even with the intrigue and excitement of court life looming, Rose's heart still aches for Dimitri. He's out there, somewhere.

She failed to kill him when she had the chance, and now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and she knows in her heart that he is hunting her. And if Rose won't join him, he won't rest until he has silenced her...forever.

But Rose can't forget what she learned on her journey - whispers of a magic too impossible and terrifying to comprehend. A magic inextricably tied to Lissa that could hold the answer to all of Rose's prayer's, but not without devastating consequences. Now Rose will have to decide what - and who - matters most to her. And in the end, is true love really worth the price?

Oh My God! The wait is finally over and I expected Spirit Bound to be good, but I didn't expect it too blow me away! I have only ever once before given a book a 5/5 rating and this has just become my second. Fans of the series will not be disappointed! Every book in the Vampire Academy series gets more exciting, thrilling and addictive than the last and Richelle Mead is a force to be reckoned with.

I don't want to ruin the ending for others (although if you would like to chat about spoilers please feel free to contact me) but I will say it that at the end of page 489, you will be desperate for the 6th, and final, book Last Sacrifice (released 14th December 2010). If you haven't already started this series, do yourself a favour and go get the first book, Vampire Academy, and clear the rest of your day as you will not be able to put it down. This is the best YA vampire series around (yes better than Twilight and Evernight, etc).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Necromancer by Michael Scott

Title: The Necromancer
Series: The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel Book 4
Author: Michae
l Scott

Release Date: 25th May 2010


My Rating: 4/5


San Francisco:
After fleeing to Ojai, then Paris, and escaping to London, Josh and Sophie Newman are finally home. And after everything they've seen and learned in the past week, they're both more confused than ever about their future. Neither of them has mastered the magics they'll need to protect themselves from the Dark Elders, they've lost Scatty, and they're still being pursued by Dr. John Dee. Most disturbing of all, however, is that now they must ask themselves, can they trust Nicholas Flamel? Can they trust anyone?

Alcatraz:
Dr. Dee underestimated Perenelle Flamel's power. Alcatraz could not ho
ld her, Nereus was no match for her, and she was able to align herself with the most unlikely of allies. But she wasn't the only one being held on the island. Behind the prison's bars and protective sigils were a menagerie of monsters-an army for Dee to use in the final battle. And now Machiavelli has come to Alcatraz to loose those monsters on San Francisco. Perenelle might be powerful, but each day she weakens, and even with Nicholas back at her side, a battle of this size could be too much for her. Nicholas and Perenelle must fight to protect the city, but the effort will probably kill them both.

London:
Having been unable to regain the two final pages of
the Codex, Dee has failed his Elder and is now an outlaw-and the new prey of all the creatures formerly sent to hunt down Flamel. But Dee has a plan. With the Codex and the creatures on Alcatraz, he can control the world. All he needs is the help of the Archons. But for his plan to work, he must raise the Mother of the Gods from the dead. For that, he'll have to train a necromancer. And the twins of legend will make the perfect pupils.

I was very lucky to get an advanced copy of one of my favourite series and The Necromancer completely lived up to my expectations! For anyone who has not discovered these exciting books, do yourself a favour and pick up the first book, The Alchemyst. I credit this series as being one of the first in what is now a large list of urban fantasy books that I read. For a rather long time I had refused to read fantasy books, as I had a very narrow view as to what kind of content would come under that label. I am pleased to say, that roughly 4 or so years later, I now count many urban fantasy books as my all-time-favourites (including this one).

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series is set in present day time but relies heavily on some of history and mythology's best known heroes and villains, from Joan of Arc, Mars - God of War and of course Nicholas Flamel (best known to the children of today from the first Harry Potter book), to Medusa and William Shakespeare. In the latest instalment, while still on the run from Doctor John Dee and with the Flamels aging rapidly, Sophie and Josh struggle to learn the remaining elemental magics and control these new found abilities, all the while still questioning the motives behind the actions of Nicholas and Perenelle. We also meet a variety of new characters such as Aoife - Scatty's estranged twin sister, Niten - warrior swordsman, Quetzalcoatl the feathered serpent and the mysterious hooded man with a hook for a hand.

I really wish Michael Scott would write faster, as another whole year before The Warlock is released is just too long!

The two that are one...The one that is all.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tick-Tock...Spirit Bound Is Almost Here!


With less than 12 hours to go until Spirit Bound can officially be in out hot little hands, here is the last teaser...

'I've given up on you. Love fades. Mine has.'


Oh My God!

I can't wait to review Spirit Bound!
Tick-tock :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tomorrow When The War Began Film Trailer

If you are not already in the know, one of my all time favourite books, Tomorrow When The War Began, is FINALLY being made in to a movie. Because of the fact I love it to much, I am petrified the film will not do the book justice. But, judging by the trailer, so far it's looking good. The Australian release date for the film is 2nd September 2010!



Title: Tomorrow When The War Began
Series: Tomorrow series Book 1

Author: John
Marsden

Release Date: November 1993 (Australia)


My Rating: 5/5


Somewhere out there, Ellie and her friends are hiding.
They're shocked, they're frightened, they're alone. Their world has changed, with the speed of a slamming door. They've got weapons - except courage. They've got no help - except themselves. They've got nothing - except friendship. How strong can you be, when the world is full of people trying to kill you?

There are no words to describe this series that will do it justice. Australian author John Marsden has created a series that every teenager in Australia should read at some point. It is, without a doubt, absolutely brilliant and has received my first ever 5/5 rating!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Title: Halo
Series: Halo Book 1

Author: Alexandra Adornetto


Release Date: 1st August 2010 (Australia)


My Rating: 3/5

Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Venus Cove. But everything changes when three angels, Ivy, Bethany and Gabriel, are sent from heaven to protect the town against the gathering forces of darkness. They work hard to conceal their true identity and, most of all, their wings.


But the mission is threatened when the youngest angel, Bethany, is sent to high school and falls for the handsome school captain, Xavier Woods. Will she defy the laws of heaven by loving him?


Things come to a head when the angels realise they are not the only supernatural power in Venus Cove. There's a new kid in town and he's charming, seductive, and deadly. Worst of all, he's after Beth.
The angels and Xavier must work together to overcome the dark forces, but will Beth survive the battle?

Halo is the first book in what promises to be a rather exciting trilogy. I was initially a bit skeptical as it does fall into the supernatural love category we have seen so much of in the last couple of years. But, I did really enjoy reading it and once I was a couple of chapters in I read the rest in one sitting.


Halo is very well written and the descriptions throughout are very detailed, although not excessively. I loved the references to the different angels and their abilities but also the underworld, our resident bad guy is described perfectly. Bethany is very naive, having never lived on earth and of course because she is an angel, and this led to a lot of funny scenes, questions and explanations as she needed some of the simplest things explained to her.

I don't usually like it when a reviewer describes something as being to similar to Twilight or that you will love it if you loved Twilight, but I am going to make an exception for this book. I found there were quite a few parallels to Twilight, and not just in the highly intense relationship and instant devotion between Bethany and Xavier, but other areas as well. While I won't go into detail, I will be interested to know if others agree with me on this matter.

There were a lot of references to God and how He feels and how He will 'enlighten us in due course' and while it was coming from the perspective of an angel, I did feel a little like I was being preached to, something I am personally not entirely comfortable with. Having said this though, I was able to look beyond it as it gave more integrity to the angels.

Please take note that I did read an advanced readers copy yet to go through it's final editing stages and certain things may change. One thing I hope will be rectified will be which country the town of Venus Cove is set in. I'm still unclear as whether or not it is set in America or Australia. I read most of it assuming it was set in the US after the references to prom and college but then I picked up on the fact that both rugby and soccer (two sports Xavier plays) are usually how we refer to these sports in Australia whereas in the US it is usually football. Also, authors generally set their novels in their own country as it is what they are familiar with (yes I am generalising here). Maybe I am being petty, but it is something that bugs me. Maybe we are not supposed to know where it is set? Maybe that is the beauty of it, that it could happen anywhere.
..

Might I also add, is that not one of the most stunning covers you have ever seen?!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Art for Any Day by Fiona Willis

In honour of Mother's Day today here in Perth, I've decided to do something a little different. My amazing Mum has self-published her very own art book for children and I thought I would do a little spotlight on it.

'Art for Any Day contains a 34 creative activities for children aged 4-12, designed to bring out the artist in all of us. It is for children, teachers, parents, grandparents, babysitters or anyone who’d love to have a go themselves. The artworks contained in this book are ‘tried and true’ activities that have been completed by primary school aged children either in the classroom or one-to-one, with some samples by the author as well. Whether you enjoy painting, papier-mache, sculpture, crayon work, collage or block printing, paper play, charcoal sketching, wirework, materials or clay, you will find it in this book. So, put on the art shirt and let the artist in you come out and play!'

Each activity has an age recommendation, time frame, a list of materials (many of which can be found lying around the house), a blurb with information about the activity and the inspiration behind it and step-by-step instructions accompanied by photographs. Many of the activities also have handy hints, pitfalls, variations and activity extensions.

While I am rather biased towards this title for obvious reasons, I personally did a number of the activities in this book when I was in primary school (some of my work is even featured) and I have also watched from the sidelines as kids, who never had any faith that they had a creative bone in their body, have created amazingly beautiful, fun, and exciting pieces.


Some of my favourite activities are the Absurd Animals, the Bottle People, Cardboard Characters, Creative Critters, Silhouette Scenes and the Palm Masks.


For more information, including sample activities, or to buy a copy, visit the Art for Any Day website by clicking
here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spirit Bound Teaser


Spirit Bound Teaser!

With the much anticipated release of Richelle Mead's 5th Vampire Academy book Spirit Bound almost upon us, Penguin Books Australia are releasing 7 teaser quotes, one every 3 days, up until the the release date of May 18th!

To view the first clip click
here.

'Out of all the people who would attempt to rescue me, I would never have expected you two...'

To view the second clip click here.

'This is it, a small voice inside her whispered. This is where I die.'

To view the third clip click here.

'Eternity will be lonely without you.'

To view the fourth clip click here.

'She wasn't alone. I was with her all night.'

To view the fifth clip click here.

'Because I need you to be bait for Rose.'

To view the sixth clip click here.

'There's nothing more between you and me.'

To view the seventh clip click here.

'Don't touch her.
Stay back, they aren't laying a hand on you'

Anyone want to have a guess as to what these quotes are referring to or who might be saying them?

Bonus clip released Monday 17th May! Watch this space...

Only three days to go!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Title: The Lonely Hearts Club
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Release Date: 1st May 2010

My Rating: 4/5

Penny Lane is sick of boys and sick of dating, so she swears off it all and starts the Lonely Hearts Club.

What Penny doesn't realise is just how many of her friends feel the same way and want to join her club. Even some girls she'd never have thought would care, want t o sign up. Then the unthinkable happens...

So what do you do when you are the founding member of an anti-dating club and you start to have feelings for a guy who obviously likes you back?

Elizabeth Eulberg's debut novel is fun, with a great message behind it, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

Penny and her friends are sick and tired of wasting their time on lying high school boys who don't treat them right. The solution? The girls swear off boys, get together, have fun and support each other, much to the annoyance of the male student body!

This is a story about taking control, being yourself and not changing for a guy. A story about friendship, appreciating and supporting each other, major girl power and how strong girls can be together.

Penny and the rest of the members of the Lonely Hearts Club are great role models for girls and there are no overtly dramatic parts like, 'Oh my life is over because he doesn't like me. I'm going to crawl up into a ball and die!' It is a happy, fun book and although they certainly have their share of problems to deal with, they combat them as a group and have the best year in high school they could ever imagine. There is always something happening in this story, it's fast-paced and never gets boring.

It's great to have a story about real girls and high school issues with a main character who is likeable and who has a supportive family. Aside from Penny there is a fantastic cast of characters in this book, someone for everyone to relate to.

The Beatles are a continuing theme throughout the book. From the name of the book and the cover (which looks fabulous), song lyrics (a way of leading into chapters and also Penny's way of expressing her moods and feelings towards others), Penny and her sisters' names are taken from Beatles songs and Penny's own obsession with the Beatles (passed down to her from her hilariously obsessed parents who live and breathe Beatles, from the doorbell chime to the Walrus in her dad's dental office and their vegetarianism because Paul McCartney says so). I have read some reviews where readers who are not Beatles fans have found the Beatles-mania annoying. I am not a major Beatles fan (yes I know there is something wrong with me) but I had no problem with any of the references. I loved it and I think it works really well BECAUSE it is a continuing theme .

I don't think this would appeal to adults. It is very much a read for high school aged girls and those in their early twenties who still love YA books.
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