22 February 2011

Review: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James book coverBeautiful Malice was written by Australian author Rebecca James, and it caused an international sensation that The Wall Street Journal referred to as a 'publishing phenomenon'.

I was surprised to learn this is her first novel and that it sparked a significant bidding war, eventually being published in 2010. Despite all of the buzz and hype surrounding this Young Adult novel, I was pleased to discover that it's a terrific read.

Beautiful Malice is narrated by 17 year old Katherine, who has started at a new school after the murder of her sister and the subsequent media attention the family endured after the crime. Katherine is soon befriended by the charming and popular Alice, who instantly becomes a close friend, as does her on-again off-again boyfriend Robbie.

The book focusses on the growing friendship between the three friends and the increasingly disturbing behaviour displayed by Alice. Meanwhile we slowly learn more about Katherine's past and what actually happened the night her sister died.

I believe the blurb reveals way too much information about the characters, and I would have preferred much less so I could have been more surprised as events unfolded. I'm happy to admit the characters of Katherine and Alice completely lured me in, and I stayed up until the early hours of the morning to finish it, which earns the novel an extra star from me.

I would recommend Beautiful Malice to readers who enjoy Young Adult fiction, or an easy thriller without the blood and gore so reminiscent of the current crime genre.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
17 February 2011

Review: Slash with Anthony Bozza

I was really dubious about reading Slash's self-titled autobiography when it first hit the shelves. Guns N' Roses remain one of my favourite bands of all time, and I really didn't want to learn anything that would damage the high esteem in which I hold their music. I've intentionally ignored and blocked out any knowledge of bad behaviour and I was reluctant to burst my happy bubble by delving into Slash's autobiography. Alas, it's been several years since publication, and curiosity finally got the better of me and I wanted to find out how the band fell apart.

Well, I think it's fair to say that my bubble was completely and utterly decimated within the first 50 pages. The biggest shock of the book was learning that Slash has a pacemaker! His drug abuse took such a toll on his heart that eventually he had a heart attack and was dead for eight minutes before being brought back to life. Unimaginable!

I've now resigned myself to the fact that one of my music heroes was either on drugs or drunk when he recorded the solos and songs I've grown to love and which formed a significant part of the soundtrack of my youth.

Having said that, I really enjoyed discovering how each of the songs were written and which band members came up with the riff, chorus, lyrics, melody and how the albums came together. These details about the music and recordings had me listening to the songs with new ears. The most surprising snippet for me was that there weren't any strings in the original recording of November Rain. After the band members had recorded their parts to November Rain, Axl used his synthesizer to add all of the melodies and 'strings' which are so moving in the song. Amazing!

I learned more about Axl - his talent and behaviour - and Slash is both complimentary and critical throughout the book. Hundreds of people in the music business were named in Slash, and he also chronicles his relationships in the lead up to his second marriage to Perla and the birth of his two kids.

I was relieved to finally get some closure by reading Slash's reasons for leaving the band, and an understanding of why a reunion of the original lineup of Guns N' Roses is completely out of the question.

I would recommend this autobiography to readers who enjoy reading about successful rock bands and their outrageous behaviour, or fans of Guns N' Roses and Slash.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
09 February 2011

Review: So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

This is the first book I've read by author Michael Koryta,So Cold the River by Michael Koryta book cover
although he has written six so far in his career and has been the recipient of many awards and prizes in his field. Koryta is a former reporter and private investigator and this becomes evident in the creation of his main character in So Cold the River, Eric.

Eric Shaw is a film maker, who has fallen out of the Hollywood movie scene and finds himself making funeral videos. He's always had a special gift of insight which is evident in his work. Eric is hired by a woman belonging to a rich family to produce a documentary of the life of her Father-in-Law; who is sadly on his death bed. Eric meets Campbell Bradford once before travelling to West Baden to document his upbringing which until now has been a secret to the family.

West Baden is located in a valley with mysterious mineral springs which form the lost river, flowing both above ground and underground. I think the creepiest parts of the book are Koryta's descriptions of the whirlpool, where the lost river both comes to the surface and disappears beneath the rock again, creating a rising and falling circular whirlpool of great proportions. Creepy!

Eric drinks from a mysterious 100 year old bottle of Pluto water from the springs and begins to experience visions and a subtle paranormal theme begins to emerge. (Don't worry, there aren't any vampires). As Eric begins to investigate the history of the Bradford family, he has no idea what else he's stirring up.

My favourite quote from this book was as follows:

"Must be nice to have a bank ledger where your ethics should be, Gavin. You'll probably go on to big things. Most people like that do."

On the jacket, Koryta's work is compared to that of one of my favourite authors, Stephen King. I scoffed at this initially, but it did influence me to read the book; definitely effective advertising. Now having finished So Cold the River, I am surprised to find I don't mind the comparison at all, and I think Koryta is definitely an author to watch. The mystery and suspense had me reading long into the night, and the novel's subtle supernatural touch reminded me of Stephen King's The Green Mile.

I'd definitely recommend this novel to readers who enjoy a thriller, suspense and mystery and I'm looking forward to reading more of Koryta's work when I can get the time.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!