Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Protected by Claire Zorn

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

The Protected by Claire Zorn
Published July 23, 2014 by UQP
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Hannah's world is in pieces and she doesn't need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn't have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn't afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl's struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn't afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?
In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl's struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

The Protected is Claire Zorn’s second novel. Like her debut, The Sky So Heavy, it is set in the Blue Mountains. The story revolves around fifteen year old Hannah McCann, who attends St Joseph’s. It’s been almost a year since her older sister Katie died, and since then her bullies have backed off, but she’s still lonely and dealing with guilt.

From the moment I started The Protected I was completely sucked into the bubble that is Hannah’s life. Her home life is quiet, with her mother spending most of time in her bedroom, and her father, who is suffering from injuries obtained during the accident, often working long hours. At school she still has panic attacks, and even though the bullying no longer occurs it’s clear her wounds run deep. Told in first person, Hannah slowly recounts events from her childhood, her high school years, and the months before the accident, while also allowing us into her present life.

At only fifteen Hannah has been through a lot, the bullying she endured sounded so awful that I felt sick while reading about it, and she was in the car during the accident that killed Katie and injured her father. Now she’s struggling with what happened that day, as well as her memories of Katie, which aren’t always positive.

It was satisfying to see people start to care about her, particularly Anne, the school counsellor, and Josh Chamberlain, a new boy at school. Anne was quite a character and seemed like the perfect fit for Hannah. Josh made me laugh out loud several times; he was so good to Hannah, treating her in such a positive way.

Claire’s writing made everything vivid and palpable, from the heat of the summer, to the physical attacks on Hannah, to Josh’s smile – I saw it, heard it, and felt it all as if I was Hannah.

Often YA fiction seems parent-less, but the parents in this story were very much present, even if their family was on the verge of falling apart. It was interesting to see the different ways the family members reacted to Katie’s death, and Hannah’s dad in particular made my heart ache. The accident, and the proceedings that followed, were dealt with in a very believable way, with realistic consequences.

While reading this I kept thinking about The Accident by Kate Hendrick. Both books feature a strong emphasis on nature (in this case bush fires and the summer heat), the central theme of a car accident, and jump back and forth in time, piecing together the story – if you loved that book, give this a go, and vice versa.

The Protected is a moving, honest, hopeful story of a family coming to terms with death, and a girl trying to find her place in the world. Once I started reading I found it hard to put down, and it left me heartbroken and breathless, in the best possible way.

Thank you to the wonderful people at UQP for my review copy.

My manicure for The Sky So Heavy is still one of my faves, so I was pleased to see Claire’s new book also had a great cover perfect for nail art.

On my thumb, index, and pinky nails I used 2 coats of Ulta3 Bright Me.

On my middle and ring nails I started with 2 coats of China Glaze White Out. Once dry I painted a stripe down the middle with Barry M Peach Melba. Once that was dry I painted the right hand side with Ulta3 Bright Me.

Once dry I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint Hannah's silhouette. I also lightly sponged some paint onto the orange nails to mimic the marbled/smoky effect on the cover.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Shining by Stephen King

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

The Shining by Stephen King
Published 2005 by Simon & Schuster Audio (originally published 1977)
Source: Audible Australia
Length: 15 hours and 54 minutes
Narrator: Campbell Scott
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Danny is only five years old, but in the words of old Mr Hallorann he is a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, Danny's visions grow out of control. As winter closes in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seems to develop a life of its own. It is meant to be empty. So who is the lady in Room 217, and who are the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why do the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive? Somewhere, somehow, there is an evil force in the hotel - and that, too, is beginning to shine….

Like Carrie, The Shining, is a book I’ve known about but never felt the urge to read because I was too much of a scaredy cat. But my attempt to read all of King’s books means I’ll be reading all the ones I’ve tried to avoid out of fear. And I’m happy to say this was not as bad as I thought it would be, it was creepy but never too terrifying - phew!

Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic, it’s been fourteen months since his last drink, and it’s been two years since he broke his son’s arm for messing up his desk. Now he’s teaching at a prep school, and working on a play in his spare time. But after another violent outburst, this time involving one of his students, he’s in need of a new job. This is how he comes to be at The Overlook Hotel, Colorado. The hotel closes from the end of September until mid-May and the manager, Stuart Ullman, has decided to hire a caretaker for the winter months. Jack, his wife, Wendy, and five year old son, Danny, move in and things start to get creepy.

This story mostly belongs to Jack and Danny. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Wendy, but there was more of a focus on the guys. For me, watching Jack slowly start to turn against his family was the most terrifying aspect - the way he could look at Wendy with a thin smile but inside being thinking about what a bitch she was was scary. If you’ve ever known an alcoholic this sort of mood swing will be all too familiar. The same goes for his thoughts about Danny. Danny’s wellbeing was the most important thing to me and the fact that he was stuck at this hotel with his potentially violent father was awful.

In addition to this, Danny has psychic abilities, according to Dick Hallorann, the Overlook’s cook, he shines. If he concentrates, he can hear the thoughts or catch the feelings of those around him. He has an imaginary friend, Tony, who sometimes comes to him in visions and Tony begins to show him violent images of what will happen at the hotel. Danny is an amazing kid, especially when he has to deal with seeing these horrible things all the time. He still manages to love his father dearly, which is all the more painful.

Like ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining deals with the idea that places or buildings can be evil and the Overlook Hotel certainly is not on my destination list. The building is filled with the ghosts of past guests and owners, a lot of bad things have happened there, and there were definitely certain scenes that freaked me out. I mentioned The Diviners in my review of ‘Salem’s Lot, because it too features an evil house, so I’ll suggest this as another book to read if you liked that aspect of The Diviners.

Like King’s previous two novels, The Shining uses an omniscient narrator, allowing us multiple points of view as well as details the characters can’t know or see. Again I think it works well, it helps to know what each character is thinking, it means the story is never one-sided, and your sympathy shifts from person to person.

But, this also means that you know all the details and you know what’s coming. Danny’s visions are described in detail over and over again, he might not understand them completely, but the reader will. I was definitely in suspense wondering how things would play out, but thanks to Danny I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen, and I think this is why I wasn’t as scared as I thought I’d be.

The Shining is narrated by Campbell Scott and he does an amazing job. I recently listened to him narrate Cell (the book that sparked my SK Project fire) and I was thrilled when I saw he was also the narrator for this one. He does different voices and accents well, and I always know which character is speaking because of the voice he’s doing. It even starts to sound like the characters are speaking, and not a narrator. He’s gone on my auto-listen list, along with Juliet Stephenson and Katherine Kellgren.

I think there’s at least one link between The Shining and the Dark Tower series (Danny), but I also made a note of there being nineteen stairs that lead to the lobby level (nineteen is an important number in the DT series), but that might just be a coincidence.

The Shining is suspenseful story of a family under mental and physical attack from an evil hotel. It explores family dynamics, the inner workings of a recovering alcoholic, and a young boy’s psychic abilities.

While googling cover images I found a post that mentioned the title was inspired by John Lennon’s Instant Karma, and the lyric “We all shine on” – how cool is that? Here’s the post I read, the cover design is awesome!

Book #3 in my Stephen King Project

At the beginning of the year I did nails to match another Stephen King novel, The Eyes of the Dragon. I was drawn that version because of the wonderful cover. While looking into King covers I discovered that it was part of a redesign of King’s books for Hodder in 2007. I love how simple yet perfect these designs are and I’m sure I’ll be recreating a lot of them as manicures as my project goes on. I decided to use the cover from this series for my The Shining manicure:

I started with 2 coats of China Glaze White Out, once dry I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for the wasp.

So, seeing as I had lovely white nails, I decided to go back to book #1, Carrie, and do a manicure to match that cover, especially as I had a special request from Angie to do so! I removed the polish on my my ring nail and began again with 2 coats of China Glaze White Out, painting Carrie and Tommy with acrylic paint and a fine brush once the polish was dry. 

Here’s a photo, and I’ve posted a couple more with my review:

Monday, 14 July 2014

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Published 2004 by Simon & Schuster Audio (originally published in 1975)
Source: Audible
Length: 17 hours and 35 minutes
Narrator: Ron McLarty
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Thousands of miles away from the small township of Salem's Lot, two terrified people, a man and a boy, still share the secrets of those clapboard houses and tree-lined streets. They must return to Salem's Lot for a final confrontation with the unspeakable evil that lives on in the town.

It’s 1975* and Jerusalem’s Lot is a small town in Maine with a population of 1300 people. Author, Ben Mears, age thirty three*, is on his way back to the town after a twenty-four year absence. He has fond memories of his time spent there as a child and decides to return in order to write his fourth novel. Once there he meets local girl, Susan Norton, and discovers that something evil is stirring in the Marsten House, a house that still haunts his dreams.

I first read ‘Salem’s Lot in 2010 so I was interested to see how it would hold up the second time around. I had vague memories of what occurred but there were plenty of little details I’d forgotten and I enjoyed it all over again.

Like Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot is told to the reader via an omniscient narrator, this works well for a story that revolves around a small town as there were so many perspectives to cover, giving a full view of what starts to occur. Another similarity with Carrie is the shift in time frame, the novel begins by showing us the outcome, and then jumps back in time to explain what happened.

I loved the main band of characters: Ben, Susan, Matt, Jimmy, Father Callahan, and Mark. They’re all good people and their loyalty to each other was admirable, as was their desire to stop the evil from consuming the whole town. They each had different reactions to the news of vampires being in town, ranging from acceptance to complete disbelief, and each reaction felt believable.

The Marsten House, Straker, and Barlow were all suitably creepy, this is a book about legit vampires, no sparkly-skinned vampires in ‘Salem’s Lot, folks! The house is particularly terrifying, every time it’s mentioned I could feel the horrible, dank atmosphere, it too was a character in the story. Re-reading this after reading and loving The Diviners last year, made me think of the evil house featured in that story, if you enjoyed The Diviners, you’ll probably like ‘Salem’s Lot, too.

Even though this was creepy, I wasn’t terrified out of my mind (that’s a big call for me, I’m usually easily spooked) and I don’t know if that was because this was my second reading or if I got a different experience listening to the book compared to reading it. I also find that knowing who is going to survive means you’re prepared for the deaths and they are less shocking. The build-up is fantastic though, slowing watching the town get taken over by vampires, seeing the clueless townsfolk get turned one by one, that was really well done. I found myself wanting to hurry Ben and his band of crusaders along; afraid the sun would set before they could finish their task.

There are a couple of links between this book and King’s Dark Tower series, it’s always fun to see characters or symbols from the DT series pop up in his other books.

‘Salem’s Lot is narrated by Ron McLarty and I enjoyed his way of telling the story, he covered a lot of different voices and accents really well. I also loved the introduction, read by King, in which he talks about the inspiration behind the book, as well as his mother's opinion on books she'd categorise as 'trash'.

‘Salem’s Lot is a suspenseful tale of a small American town, a classic case of good versus evil with plenty of action, vampire folklore, and gore. 

*I don't think the year is ever mentioned, neither is Ben's age, but these are the numbers I calculated based on other dates mentioned in the novel.

Book #2 in my Stephen King Project

I’m probably not going to do a lot of manicures for my SK Project, e.g. I do not fancy painting a creepy clown on my nails, but I like this neon green cover and the graphic of the Marsten House.

I started with 2 coats of China Glaze White Out. Once dry I added 2 coats of an unnamed neon green by L.A Colors Color Craze (it came in a pack of mini bottles and none of them have names or numbers).

Once dry I used a fine brush and acrylic paint to for the house and roots.

It’s been ages since I’ve done a detailed book mani, so it was nice to get back into it with a fun and one like this!

Friday, 11 July 2014

#OzYAChat Recap 6

Firstly a reminder: please use the #OzYAChat tag on twitter during the chat if you wish your tweets to show up in the feed. Not only will it mean people can see your tweets and reply to them, it means we can see them and include them in the recaps. If not, you're just tweeting and only your followers will see them. Thanks!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Published June 10, 2014 by Hachette AU
Source: the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 2 stars
From the blurb: Munich, 1931 - Hitler is on the rise. A compelling coming-of-age tale for fans of Elizabeth Wein, author of CODE NAME VERITY and ROSE UNDER FIRE.
Gretchen Muller has, as best she can, dealt with the horrors of her family's past. Her father, a senior Nazi officer, died trying to save the life of their leader, Adolf Hitler. And now Germany has the chance to be great once more. Swept up in the excitement and passion of life in Munich in 1931, seventeen-year-old Gretchen has embraced the life laid out for her by that leader, her 'Uncle Dolf'. 
Gretchen Muller has, as best she can, dealt with the horrors of her family's past. Her father, a senior Nazi officer, died trying to save the life of their leader, Adolf Hitler. And now Germany has the chance to be great once more. Swept up in the excitement and passion of life in Munich in 1931, seventeen-year-old Gretchen has embraced the life laid out for her by that leader, her 'Uncle Dolf'. But the secrets of the past cannot be silenced forever. When Gretchen receives a letter from an anonymous sender claiming to have more information about her father's death, she becomes swept up in a desperate and dangerous search for the truth. With the full might of the ever-powerful Nazi party on her tail, it is a race that will risk everything she has and change her life forever...
Prisoner of Night and Fog is Anne Blankman’s debut novel. Set in Munich in 1931, it follows the story of Gretchen Muller, a seventeen year old girl, who counts Adolf Hitler as a close family friend. Her father was killed protecting him eight years ago. Since then she helps her mother run a boarding house, and she tries to avoid angering her older brother Reinhard, as he retaliates with cruel tricks or violence. When she receives word that her father wasn’t killed but was murdered by his own party, she gets drawn into the mystery surrounding his death.

You don’t mention Elizabeth Wein’s books in a blurb without peaking my interest, but I think those high hopes coupled with the main character, as well as the fact that this story is written in third person, left me feeling very disappointed.

Gretchen is a very naïve and gullible girl, but her personality was believable. She’s been without a father for eight years, and for twelve years Adolf has had influence over her and her remaining family, so much so that she believes his opinions unquestioningly. But, her naïvety made for quite a frustrating narrator – it takes her so long to pick up on obvious clues, she spends a lot of time thinking questions and then answering them as if having a discussion with herself, and she constantly refers back to things that have already been covered, which made me feel as if the author was worried her readers wouldn’t be able to remember facts and events.

It must be difficult to write a book involving true stories and fantasy, in this case the years leading up to WWII and Hitler’s life. Most teens will have studied history in high school and I’m sure that will include WWII and the events that led to it. Modern History was one of my favourite subjects and so the facts in the story were not new to me. Even if you didn’t study this time in history, most people will have heard of Hitler and have a strong, negative opinion of him. So, while the beginning of the book struggles along slowly, showing how Gretchen has such a nice time hanging with Hitler, I was waiting for her to realise how manipulative he was being, and that of course happens because the author doesn’t try to alter history.

So, the events based on history were slightly predictable, but so too were the events of the author’s creation – you don’t introduce a beloved cat and a psychotic brother and not know instantly that he is going to kill that cat.

This is a time in history that I love reading about, despite how horrifying and depressing it is, and I love that historical YA fiction seems to be on the rise, but this book just did not work for me. In fact I almost quit reading at about 30% but I pushed on, hoping for the best. And it did pick up, once Gretchen realises the truth, but still it was a real effort to read this story and I doubt I’ll be picking up the sequel.

Thank you to Hachette for my review copy via Netgalley.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Carrie by Stephen King

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Carrie by Stephen King
Published 2005 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 1974)
Source: Audible
Length: 7 hours and 22 minutes
Narrator: Sissy Spacek
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Carrie White is no ordinary girl. Carrie White has the gift of telekinesis. To be invited to Prom Night by Tommy Ross is a dream come true for Carrie – the first step towards social acceptance by high school colleagues. But events will take a decidedly macabre turn on that horrifying and endless night as she is forced to exercise her terrible gift on the town that mocks and loathes her...

Carrie is such a classic, whether you’re talking about the book by Stephen King, or the 1976 film version. But up until now I’d never felt the need to read it. Most of the time I don’t do horror, but I make an exception when it comes to King’s books. Reading this and having a general idea of what was going to happen did not diminish my enjoyment, there were plenty of details I didn’t know.

Sixteen year old Carietta N. White, better known as Carrie, lives with her extremely religious mother in Chamberlain, Maine. She attends Thomas Ewan High School but has no friends. She’s been bullied for as long as she can remember; because she’s considered weird, because of her mother, because of her looks. On the day of her first menstruation she is bullied again by the girls of her gym class and something inside her snaps, releasing her telekinetic powers.

The story of Carrie’s life is told by an omniscient narrator, allowing us to go back through Carrie’s childhood and back through her family's history. There are snippets of news reports, excerpts from books, and interviews, as well as the perspectives of other people in the town. This gives a complete look at the situation and made it all the more fascinating. The world in which Carrie lives is one where abilities like telekinesis are possible, and while the story was weird, creepy, and often scary, I wasn't terrified and had no trouble sleeping at night.

Carrie’s story is heartbreakingly sad, she is tortured by her mother at home, made to feel ashamed of her own body, and she is bullied constantly at school. She has no one to confide in, nowhere she can relax. It’s no surprise that when Tommy asks her to the prom, she is hesitant to accept, fearing another prank.

Listening to this I was struck at how relevant it still is forty years later. If you take away the paranormal element, this is essentially a story about bullying and the victim fighting back in a horrible and lethal way. It made me think about school shootings. It also made me think of Tease, a book I read and reviewed a few weeks ago, and one I highly recommend.

A note on the narrator: I enjoyed Sissy Spacek's narration, I've listened to her before (To Kill A Mockingbird) and her voice and accent are lovely.

Book #1 in my Stephen King Project

So, I didn't originally intend to do nails for this book, but after seeing the cover that is part of a 2007 redesign, as well as a request from Angie, I decided to do some! 

A lot of the covers in this series have a white background and one graphic, so after doing nails for The Shining, I removed the polish from my ring nail and started over.

I used 2 coats of China Glaze White Out. Once dry I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint Carrie and Tommy.