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Mockingjay Part 1 – Film Review

I will start by saying that yes, they included the scene where Katniss sings – are you, are you, coming to the tree – and it is more glorious, heartbreaking, visually stunning and emotionally resonating than you could imagine.

I saw the film last Thursday night. Half a week later and I am still turning the film over in my mind… The third Hunger Games book, Mockingjay has been transformed into a deeply emotional and brilliantly filmed piece that satisfies you as a viewer while setting up the action for the final instalment.

I personally think two films is a good thing for this book. It would be all too easy to cut out the detail and make it a fast, action flick. This film, like the book itself, makes you shift down a gear and really think about the cost war has on people, communities, the environment, and one’s sense of self. Mockingjay Pt 1 has beautiful artistic direction and stunning acting that pays tribute to the emotional and human cost of war.Mockingjay-gale-poster

In the explosive aftermath of breaking free of the Arena in Catching Fire, Katniss and other rebels have fled to District 13, an underground base that has been planning a revolution against the oppressive Capitol for decades. However, Peeta, Katniss’s lover, and Victor have been captured and imprisoned in the Capitol. Katniss is uneasily forced to accept her role as figurehead for the revolution, even though she doesn’t fully support it herself. As Panem sinks deeper into what seems an unwinnable war, Katniss is now fighting in a new and uncontrollable arena, where the impact of her actions are reaching further than she had first imagined.

Mockingjay was easily the bleakest, most heartbreaking book of the series. It was also the book where one of the major complaints was that very little happened for many pages. However, I think now seeing it translated onto screen, it is a perfect book and film. Very little happens because a revolution takes time, it takes daily grind and struggle. Katniss is a broken hero, struggling with her PTSD and reluctance to be forced into another role of deception. And yet, the two-and-half hours were gone in a flash! I think because the film takes a step back and incorporates the wider world outside of Katniss’s mind – the cruel calculations and tactics of President Snow, the way the rebel side tries to manipulate the Mockingjay image in exactly the same way the Capitol did in Catching Fire. It makes for a film of high tension, politic discourse and action that definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. Mockingjay

But when you draw away from the overarching theme of the film, it’s the attention to tiny details in the book that make it perfect – Prim braiding Katniss’s hair; District 12 reduced to Pompei-like rubble. Katniss failing at being a scripted hero for propaganda; Peeta trapped in the Capitol as a pawn opposing Katniss, in the grip of a tyrannical war machine. I also love the dense but clean forests that surround District 13. For a dystopian world born of war and global warming it is abundantly green… nature always wins in the end.

There’s so much about this film, so much to say and so many feels to be had! Considering that I deeply love the series I am already biased to loving this film and truly happy that it took the most heartbreaking book and made it into something beautiful; like what Cinna does to Katniss. The directing from Francis Lawrence is on point and Jennifer Lawrence will absolutely floor you with how perfect she is. From mental breakdown to rebel heroine, she delivers a performance that will launch her into the same calibre of acting as Meryl Streep.

And a big shoutout goes to Elizabeth Banks who is shining as Effie! The fans loved her so much she was saved from a Capitol prison and given a great part in Mockingjay! Best line – “You know what needs a revolution? That hair!”

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Donald Sutherland is delivering a truly spine-chilling performance as President Snow. Actually the entire cast – Game of Thrones alumni Natalie Dormer, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson , Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore – is superb! I especially liked Julianne Moore’s crisp efficiency as President Coin. One of the most resonant moments comes when she is delivering a speech, and Plutarch stands in the background mouthing the words while Effie looks on in horror.

Of course this film is dedicated to the memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman. I like to hope that he would have been proud of the great calibre of film he was a part of.

Mockingjay Part 1 features just enough action and danger to satisfy, while setting the scene for the final part next year (it’s going to be torture to wait!).

 

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Finally!! I have been waiting all year for this! Amy Poehler, the talented, funny maven of comedy has released Yes Please – part bio, part life advice column, a whole lot of comedy. Amy is a hilarious and acclaimed actress, comedienne, mother of 2, other half of Tina Fey and all-round brilliant person! She stars in Mean Girls, regularly appears on Saturday Night Live and writes, acts and produces Parks and Recreations.

So, she has finally written her part bio/part ‘missive from the middle’, Yes Please. She does not gloss over the struggles of writing a book and balancing her full life, which kind of makes me immediately like her even more. She’s unapologetic and real. And wickedly smart and funny of course!

 

Cue the happy dancing!

 

Yes Please is not a misery-memoir about turning pain into art or some such thing! It’s just a great, chatty and witty read. Amy’s life is interesting, her loyalty and passion for teamwork is inspiring. When Amy does dish out advice, it’s solid stuff that’s come from a well-lived life.

What do I like about Amy Poehler? She’s unapologetic, fierce, loyal, kind, funny, real. She doesn’t mince words about the pressures of maintaining family and a career, the pressure to stay thin and beautiful in the film industry, and doesn’t hide her own faults to appear perfect. No matter what the topic, Amy’s warmth and brilliance radiates off the page.

I truly enjoyed reading Yes Please, I laughed, then laughed some more! Amy Poehler is an inspiring woman with many great insights and lessons in Yes Please. Amy has also founded Amy’s Smart Girls with producer Meredith Walker and Amy Miles, which inspires young woman around the world to ‘change the world by being yourself’; check out their foundation here.

Yes Please is a great book to read with Tina Fey’s Bossypants – (Tina and Amy are the perfect comedy duo, just look at them below. Crushed it) – and would make the perfect gift for yourself or best friend this Christmas!

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Before I Go To Sleep | Book Review

I have a thing about books where if it is gripping, well-written and thrilling, I can get into the zone faster than an Olympic swimmer and before I know it I am through 150 pages and about to miss my train station… This zone is exactly the one that Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson took me. It is an epic, thrilling, blood-chilling race through the nuances of trust and the fragility of the human mind.

Since the film adaptation was released yesterday, which stars my new favourite screen duo of our Nicole and Mr Darcy (The Railway Man was amazing…), I wanted to read it quickly so I could then see the film. And read it quickly is what I did, and without even trying. The pace of the book was so fast and enthralling that I simply could not put it down! I highly recommend this book, and consider it to  be possibly the best thriller I have ever read …

Christine awakes in a room she doesn’t recognise, sleeping beside a man she has never seen before. He explains that he is Ben, her husband, this is her home and a terrible car accident had destroyed her memory – leaving her incapable of transferring a day’s events into long term memory. She wakes as a blank slate every day. Christine knows she could not have always been in this condition, and behind Ben’s back she is helped by Dr Nash, a promising young psychologist who is working to unlock Christine’s memory.

Nash encourages her to keep a diary and record each day’s events in the hope it will cause her past to become clearer. Slowly through flashbacks and her diary, Christine starts to remember more about the terrible accident and her life before she lost her memory. It becomes increasingly apparent to Christine that the truth may set her free. But it might just drag her through hell first.

Christine does not know who to trust – is Ben concealing the past from her to protect and save her the distress of events, or is he hiding something? Is her doctor someone she can trust? Did her best friend really abandon her… and what really happened on that fateful night when her life was ruined???

In a spiralling and intense thriller, S.J. Watson weaves a web fraught with duplicitous characters, one that masterfully plays on your own anxieties to keep the pages turning fast. It’s so beautifully written – jarring as clues are revealed and as elegant as falling snow with it’s vivid descriptions. S.J. Watson has created a woman so dynamic and real that you feel like maybe you’re reading a true story. Christine is more than ink and paper, her thoughts and emotions are grounded in a reality that draws you into the book and does not let you go, even after that final page is turned.

An evocative thriller, a story of redemption and an emotional rollercoaster, Before I Go To Sleep explores the frail, fragile thing that is the mind and memory; and then in the same step shows the immense bravery and persistence humans are capable of. Whether you read the book or see the film, Before I Go To Sleep is a brilliant and enthralling story that you should in no way, shape or form, allow yourself to miss!

The Art of Belonging

The Art of Belonging

‘It’s not where you live, it’s how you live’ is the premise of Hugh Mackay’s new semi-fictional, sociology book. A group of essays on different aspects of living in a society, interspersed with engaging fictional characters, The Art of Belonging is a great new book for anyone who has an interest in how modern communities work.

The Art of Belonging is half a sociology thesis and half a fictional novel, which is a really good way to break down research and convey sociological theories, attitudes, causes and effects, in a fresh and interesting new way. Of course no one wants their behaviour to be seen as typical, but the characters in the fictional town of Southwood express the common views one can have about living in this modern world – from being thankful that your neighbours are not psychos, to feeling isolated or threatened in a closed off society; building an online community or going out of your way to put down roots in a new town. The characters represent those who are struggling to live their lives as they wish and on their terms, but is it in harmony with or at the expense of, being a community-minded person?

Hugh Mackay, who also wrote The Good Life and What Makes us Tick, is a social researcher with more than 50 years of experience. He has written 14 books on ethics and sociology and 5 novels, and is a highly-respected academic and journalist. While you might think you’ve read enough sociology in your uni course, The Art of Belonging is actually a fascinating and well written book – not too heavy on the academia, not too dry with the fictional characters and a book I definitely recommend reading this year!

In today’s technology charged, individualist society, you may feel a bit:

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But as Mackay explores, to be human is to be social. And it is the exploration of the human condition that is the driving force behind this book – we need communities, but communities also need us. We are not able to be lone wolves, as my favourite quote from the books states, “It takes a village to raise a child. But it also takes a village to keep an adult sane.” It’s about being more mindful of our place in society – we may not feel like we are noticeable or making a difference, but societies would collapse without the people within it.

As a departure from my usual fare of books, I loved the simplistic but witty writing, and the fresh approach to research findings. I do love reading novels about dystopias, and The Art of Belonging was actually a great accompaniment for these. It’s definitely important to understand how a good society works to better see how it can fall apart and I will go back over a book like Divergent with more educated eyes (that is one deeply flawed society. Roth should have read this book first!!).

If you’re looking to recharge your own enthusiasm for HSC Society and Culture, find an additional reading for your uni course or just take a departure into non-fiction, this is a lovely, thought provoking and conversation starting new book.

The Art of Belonging is available in-store and online.

Black Ice

Black Ice

Black Ice is the kind of book that makes me glad I don’t live in the wilderness of mid-west American mountain ranges that are filled with wolverines, sudden blizzards and gun toting (but sexy) murderers. A new Young Adult novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, Black Ice has potential with its slick writing style and suspense charged plot.

I’m in two minds about this book… There’s definitely suspense and drama, but a blizzard of cliches and plot holes cause it to be as obscured as the mountain that gets covered by the snowstorm that strands our heroine, Britt Pfieffer, with two killers.

Britt and Korbie are two girls as basic and cliched as their fluffy names. Instead of choosing a summer break of hot sand on Hawaii, they decide to “backpack” the mountain range with Korbie’s boyfriend, Bear, and her brother and Britt’s ex, Calvin. Britt has a redeeming feature of actually planning this holiday correctly and has been training for months so she has hiking and survival knowledge, plus a few great maps and a truck full of food. Her basic friend Korbie intends to stay in the luxury cabin her family owns with pay TV and hike the distance between couch and fridge.

On the day of their travel, Britt is filling her car with petrol when she bumps into Calvin The Ex-Boyfriend. Britt’s so over him she invents a fake new boyfriend, and is saved from humiliation by a hot stranger, Mason, who goes along with the ruse. Britt and Korbie drive up the mountain when the weather suddenly changes from fine to blizzard. Unable to drive any further, the girls decide to walk, in 3 foot deep snow, at 10pm, on the off chance that they find a cabin (and I say this here, THEY TAKE NO SUPPLIES. A whole car full of food and warm clothes and the best they manage is coats. They don’t even take a Mars Bar… So much for survival training but hey, the plot called for sudden stupidity). Surprise, surprise, they find a cabin and who should be waiting out the storm inside… Mason, and a friend, Shaun, who is also good looking and charming.

The girls flirt, they hang out, but things seem weird. For two guys on a ski trip they have no gear, no skis and no food in their family cabin… A sudden change in their new friend’s manner puts them on edge. Then, they are kidnapped and held hostage. Mason and Shaun are cold-blooded killers, Shaun is possibly the man behind some notorious killings that had occurred in the mountains and Britt makes a horrifying discovery in the cabin’s back room. Now Britt must fight for her life as she is forced to lead the men off the mountain so they can escape the police who are hunting them.

Like I said, there are redeeming moments in Black Ice – the writing is nice, there is a healthy dose of suspense, Britt shows some interesting character development. However, there was so much that got on my nerves as a reader who likes to pay attention to plot and common sense. Firstly, the character of Britt takes a long, long time to get anywhere. She’s very spoilt, very basic. I kept waiting for her and Korbie to complain about having no Pumpkin Spice Lattes on the mountain. They were not the independent heroines who save the world, they are very shallow girls who find themselves in a serious danger of death, frostbite, getting lost, and being murdered. But instead they decide to flirt, banter and cosy up with two complete strangers they met on the mountain, instead of exercising deep caution.

And then, to top it off, there’s a love triangle! Britt’s not sure if she should try to get back with Calvin, the guy who broke her heart but who she is still relying on to save the day and find her and Korbie; and at the same time she’s starting to find Mason sexy, attractive, maybe he’s just a good guy mixed up in some bad stuff and would make the perfect (prison) boyfriend…

It takes a long time and a lot of red herrings to get anywhere close to the promised suspense and reveal of the real killer… I found the plot twist a bit hard to believe, but hey I’d come that far in the book I had no choice but to see it through. Then, the pace suddenly picks up and the story is really well written, as it finally shows Britt’s character development and has some very gripping action (but a terrible motive for murder, I can’t even!) that definitely keeps the pages turning. Fortunately, Britt changes so much and the epilogue shows it has made a true impact on her as a person and she is left far stronger for having survived her ordeal.

All in all, not the smartest thriller I’ve ever read, but Black Ice has potential as an easy summer beach read. It could also be good for a book club as it’s a very polarising book, you’ll either love it or hate it.

Black Ice will be available in-store and online on October 7th.

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You by Caroline Kepnes

Ok, this book was very, very disturbing. Told from the point of view of a sociopath, murderer, stalker boyfriend, I truly didn’t expect to be unable to put this book down. It was billed as Gone Girl meets Fatal Attraction and I can say, yes, it is just like that, and then some. Gritty, horrifying, twisted… terribly readable. You by Caroline Kepnes is a daring, scary thriller that will have you up all night reading.

It’s New York City and a girl walks into a bookshop… and straight into the arms of a psycho. Joe seems mild mannered, sweet, attentive. In truth he is a stalker and a murderer who has a sudden and intense fixation on Beck. Joe stalks her, saves her life, sweeps in as a perfect, perfect boyfriend – all the while pulling a tight web of lies and murder in order to secure Beck as solely his. Beck meanwhile is a bit of a manic pixie dream girl, an aspiring writer from a rich family. She is a talented, tortured, exhibitionist, selfish young lady who strings people along. As creepy and sick as Joe is, I spent a good part of the book waiting to find out if Beck had a truly dark side to her or if she was just narcissistic and self-obsessed. Joe starts by stealing her phone, gaining access to all parts of her life so he can exploit, manipulate and twist until she falls in love with him. However, Beck is a girl surrounded by people (who, because of her Manic Pixie Dream Girl status, are all hopelessly in love with her) and Joe will stop at nothing to remove the competition. Drawn deeper into a complicated spiral of murder and deceit, it is only a matter of time before everything snaps.

I’m in two minds after reading You. I couldn’t put it down, but I still didn’t love it. In fact half of the book’s content totally squicked me out and I think I’ll be spending the next 3 weeks trying to get it out of my brain!! Eye bleach, please.

Kepnes writing is truly on point because I managed to keep reading to the end in spite of the pretty sick actions and depraved minds of four extremely unlikable characters. She has an amazing voice and there are so many pop culture in-jokes and references that make it a truly dynamic read. It also makes interesting food for thought on today’s social media landscape and the habit of oversharing, as Beck has her entire life on display on Facebook and Twitter, allowing Joe to follow her every move with ease and wind up standing outside her apartment building at 2am with binoculars.

However, the writing is kind of like throwing a Persian rug over an acid burn on the floor. Looks pretty but doesn’t quite hide the mess. You is not a pleasant book in any sense and I would not actually recommend it outside of this review. Sex, violence, misogyny, lust, drugs and gore are all brought to the extreme, the ending is a horrifying nightmare end to a nightmare ride. Coming after so many novels that try to excuse controlling, weird behavior as romantic (*cough Twilight/50 Shades of Grey cough*) I guess You tries to show (in extreme terms) just how horribly unromantic obsession and power can be. It’s definitely not a book for under 18s!!

While reading I couldn’t help but compare this book to The Book of You, by Claire Kendall, only told from the stalker’s side. It had the same tightly woven plot and voice that keeps you reading, even though your blood has run ice cold. (You can read Jen’s Review of The Book of You here)

You may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you need a thriller that is a level up in the horror/shock/stalker theme, then give it a try. But as a small aside, this book is really graphic in it’s descriptions of violence, sex and murder so please be warned if that’s not your thing!!

You will be available in-store and online September 30th 2014.

 

 

 

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Us by David Nicholls

I sat down to write this review for Us by David Nicholls, his latest book after the highly successful One Day, which will be available at the end of September. I found I didn’t quite have all the words I need for this kind of book and the roller-coaster of reading I had just been on. It was amazing, frustrating, heartbreaking, life affirming.

It may seem like a simple story – a crumbling marriage, a grand tour around Europe with a bored and moody teenage son, a moment of daring to do the right thing and save the relationships – but Us is so much more. It’s a deeply felt, resonant novel with characters so real you feel more like you’re talking with them over coffee then reading from ink and paper; it’s about life and the things that define and shape a person from youth to middle age.

Us is in no way a light read, amidst the humour and tropes of a British family on holiday is a deep melancholy of a huge life history – these characters are not half-baked, half-formed teenagers trying to decide who they are. Connie and Douglas Petersen are in their 50s and have so many histories, influences, flaws, complications that make them almost exhaustively real. After a while this book, Douglas’ voice, takes on a life of its own and ceases to be a simple story about beginning life again. I dread to think how many years a book like Us must have taken to write – it truly is flawless and indescribable, the depth these characters have.

So, after my rambling, you probably want to know the plot… Douglas and Connie have been married for almost 25 years, their relationship idling slowly with limited effort on either side, when Connie reveals that she wants a divorce. However, this revelation comes at an inopportune time, as the family have booked a grand tour around Europe as a present for their 17 year old son, Albie. Since everything is pre-booked, they decide to go ahead with it and Douglas hopes that this might be the chance to repair their relationship.

The book flicks between the present holiday and the past of how Douglas and Connie met, and their life following in the 24 years. This is where the deep melancholy of the book starts, as Douglas and Connie just don’t seem right for each other. He is a scientist, calm, down to Earth, not emotionally sensitive or adventurous. When Douglas is young you can already see him as an old man, while Connie is a flighty and adventurous, artistic, party-girl. Despite the wide ocean between their characters they date, fall in love, get married. The strain of middle class life and children eat away at them slowly. There are times in the book that I cringed in shared literary pain at the actions of these characters. This isn’t a dystopian novel where they are fighting for the wider world, rather it is just the fight against normal, everyday, boring life and how that can deeply affect and change a person (and I was very happy that ending left Douglas in a better place).

So, despite the hanging threat of divorce, the trio embark on their holiday across Europe and, of course, begins the slapstick, ‘British person on Holiday’ comedy – the kind where they don’t speak French so order the spiciest food on the menu; they don’t speak Dutch so book themselves in a sex themed hotel by mistake, and these are moments of perfectly cliched, comic goodness. But when it all seems like it is destined for a mix of farce and melancholy, a great shift happens. After a fight their son ditches them in Germany to go travelling on his own and Douglas chooses to Carpe Diem and take off across Europe to find his son (but not in a Liam Neeson in Taken way). At the very moment I was prepared to walk away from Us, I am suddenly reeled back in to the drama. Douglas’ journey to find his son becomes as much his chance to find himself and, as the character development in Us is so amazing, I was (hook, line and sinker) finding Douglas to be an amazing character by the end of the book.

When I first read One Day, David Nicholls’ other book, I found it a traumatic and scarring ending with a deep sense of betrayal (if you’ve read the book you’ll know what I’m talking about) so I was really glad that when Us wobbled into that kind of ending, it swiftly changed course and provided a fantastic, realistic and fitting ending for the characters. It’s not a book about sunshine and roses and love conquering all. It is a book about life, loss, humour, adventure, family… Us…

When this book hits the shelves, do not miss out on a truly amazing novel.

 

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

It goes without saying these days, if there’s a good YA novel, it is destined to become a film franchise. The latest offering is The Maze Runner, a fast paced action/adventure novel from James Dashner. As the film is going to be out today, I picked up a copy to see what all the fuss would be about. I was, from page 1, swept up and strapped in to a roller-coaster of action and intrigue. This was another book I had serious trouble putting down and spent 20% of my time hoping someone would bring it up in conversation just so I could talk about it more… The Maze Runner is awesome.

Thomas has no memory of his life before he is awoken in a metal cage, heading up to a mysterious place called The Glade, a small community of boys at the center of a bizarre, dangerous and constantly moving Maze. They don’t know what their purpose is, other than to escape the Maze, and keep their community safe from the horrors outside. Whether these boys are victims or criminals it is unknown – are they the last survivors, are they in a new form of prison, are they destined to die at the hands of the Grievers? All Thomas has to go on is an odd feeling that he has been in the Maze before and that it is his purpose to become a Runner.

Then, a mysterious girl is delivered to Glade, bringing a note that she will be the last and that everything will change… Dun Dun Dun!!

It is dramatic and gripping, with explosive action, plenty of questions raised and an unreliable narrator to keep you guessing to the very end! I found that the books gives you clues at the same time as Thomas figures things out. There is no info-dump explaining the origin or structure of the maze or of the Creators behind it who are sending kids into the Glade with no memories. I think it is this (and a strong resistance to Wikipedia the ending) that gives the book so much page-turning angst and mystery. The Maze Runner is brilliantly written, with a fantastic voice and imaginative, hair raising plot.

The Maze Runner is a great book for boys and great for fans of the Hunger Games. I did get a very Hunger Games-y vibe from the first half of the book (Glade is to Arena as Creator is to Capitol sort of thing) but that was swiftly left behind as the intense action takes over. The Maze changes every day and the boys scramble to piece together the messages and find their way out, before it’s too late…

Get The Maze Runner and the other 2 books in the series, The Scorch Trials and Death Cure in-store and online (there’s also a box set that would make a perfect Christmas or birthday present).

The Maze Runner premiers in cinemas today!

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Masquerade

It’s Venice of the 1700s that has captured my reading attention this week, with the fun YA novel Masquerade by Kylie Fornasier. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading but I can say I truly loved this book. It was a stark departure from my usual love of dystopian YA as it is a pure romance novel set in the fabulous city of Venice. Kylie Fornasier writes exceptionally well with a cast of fascinating characters, witty prose and sweet romance.

In the city of masks, everyone is keeping secrets – from the son of the Doge to the lowly house maid – our cast of characters have their secret hopes and ambitions, but are trapped by social conventions, overbearing parents or dark family secrets!

Orelia has come to Venice to find answers about her mother’s past and the true reason she left 20 years earlier. She arrives at the house of her Uncle, who is quite senior in government only to find that her mother is even more shrouded in mystery – a woman Venice does not dare to speak of. Adopted as a god-daughter, Orelia is quickly swept up in Venetian high society with her new family.

Angelique and Veronica are sisters of complete opposites – Angelique has dreams of romance and plans to marry the lothario, Bastian, while Veronica flouts social conventions and is determined to not marry anyone (not even the cute Luca!). Together they intend to have a wonderful Carnevale. But Bastian has a bet to win against his best friend – he will make Orelia fall in love with him before Carnevale ends or he will have to to pay Marco tonnes of money! However, what starts as a joke becomes a sudden entanglement of very real emotions.

Masquerade is like a bottle of champagne – it’s fun, bright and bubbly. I can’t say it was a strenuous read, but I found the characters sweet and the romantic cliches actually bearable and in some cases, perfectly subverted! And the description is breathtaking! The description of opera houses, canals, old Casas are just perfect and hypnotic in how powerfully they can transport you straight into the pages of the book! I loved the attention to the detail of fashion, masks and houses – it’s one of the greatest strengths of the novel.

It’s a great book and while I think it is aimed at younger readers of the 15-17 bracket, I still enjoyed it. It has plenty of romance, allusions to Shakespeare (think Taming of the Shrew) and many cases of mistaken identity, rash decisions, subterfuge, backstabbing, humour, great fashion, and parties. Also the characters are all interconnected in a Love Actually kind of way, which drives the narrative forward with great speed and class.

I am hoping that the end of this book has left it open for a sequel. Our heroine Orelia has defied the cliche and left Venice to find more answers about her past, and many of the characters have the buds of new love to explore. I really loved Masquerade and would not say no to another round!

(Kylie Fornasier has also put together a rad Pinterest board for the book, which features locations and fashions in the books! Browse and enjoy)

 

Cherry Bomb by Jenny Valentish

Cherry Bomb by Jenny Valentish

Cherry Bomb by Jenny ValentishCherry Bomb by Jenny Valentish is a rockin’ debut read that takes you on tour, from Parra to LA and everywhere in between, with ‘The Dolls’.

Cousins Nina and Rose have had similar but different childhoods. Rose lived in the big house with her two parents and attended a private school. Nina comes from what could be considered a dysfunctional single parent family and attended a state public school. Together they are a ying to the other’s yang. They dream of getting out of suburban Sydney and making their way in the world via the music stage.

After a short-lived and failed stint in a three-piece high school band, Nina and Rose find their way to the big league as a dynamic punk-pop duo The Dolls (think The Veronicas but not quite so made for TV). The Dolls are helped along the way by their big in the 80′ s aunt Alannah Dall (who in my head is an Australian Wendy James from Tranvision Vamp, primarily because I wanted to be her and when I was reading this book I was defiantly more Nina than Rose), and legendary (and slightly controversial) music producer John Villiers.

The tour de Dolls that is Cherry Bomb takes us recording in Kings Cross, to performing at a country muster, to touring the States and everywhere in between. You’ll love with Nina, be mortified in public with Rose, reclaim your glory days with Alannah, be proud and jealous with Nina’s mum Helen, and you’ll be rejected and then embraced by the media.

With chapter introductions from Alannah Dall’s memoir, Pour Me Another, and a smattering of song lyrics, to-do lists and reviews, I imagine the reading experience and structure of this book to be parallel (somewhat) with what it’s like to live the life of a music artist in the spotlight.

While Cherry Bomb is a début novel, Valentish isn’t a newcomer to writing – she’s had a varied career both in Australia and internationally and has been in rock’n’roll bands, written for music  publications like NME and Triple J’s magazine, Jmag, edited crime fiction and has even written a spot of porn.  This combination comes together in Cherry Bomb and creates a fictional biography that reads like a cross between a teenage girl’s private diary and a tell-all magazine feature article. 

Nina has grit and when you start reading you probably won’t like her, but as the story progresses little bits of her hardened vainer chip away and you discover the bits that went into making her the woman in the spotlight she is. Rose also develops more substance.

Like all good music bios, Cherry Bomb has the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, but it adds to that with deeper issues of child abuse, depression, and friend and family relationships in general, which is offset by some of the lighter moments thanks to the current obsession with social media.

I’ll be honest, it took me longer to read than it probably should have, I struggled through the ‘early’ years of the Dolls, but got through the second half of the book in one sitting so I think you’d get the most out of this book if you’re the same age as Nina and Rose (early 20s) – it allows you to fully appreciate all the pop-culture references. But, if you’re into Australian music or you want a read with a strong and flawed (like all of us) lead character, then give Cherry Bomb a go.

While you’re reading it don’t forget to put on the Spotify playlist that Valentish has put together (which I’ve put here to make it easier for you).