Second Book Syndrome: A Brilliant piece from Guest Blogger Rebecca James

Bestselling author Rebecca James has bared her soul in this exquisite and brutally honest piece about the battle of the writer against the blank page.

Sweet Damage is my second book and second books are so notoriously difficult to write that this very difficulty has a condition named after it: Second Book Syndrome.

I initially started another second book. It was called Cooper Bartholomew is Dead.  I won’t go into the details but for various reasons I stopped writing Cooper after a year of work and started on Sweet Damage.

The point of telling you this is so you understand that by the time I started writing Sweet Damage I had a much worse condition than plain old Second Book Syndrome – I had second Second Book Syndrome.

In February 2011 – by which time the deadline for my second book had well and truly passed – I wrote a detailed synopsis for Sweet Damage. Once my agent and my publishers had read and approved it, I made a crazy promise. I said I’d have it ready in 2 months. Continue reading

Stand by for MICE by Gordon Reece – it is absolutely compelling

I couldn’t get out of bed this morning, and it certainly wasn’t because it was the coldest morning in Sydney in more than 60 years. Nup, I was in the grip of Gordon Reece’s MICE. Cold or no cold, I just had to stay put and read.

Mice is about Shelley and her mum who have had enough of being bullied. Retreating to an isolated cottage in the country, they think their troubles are over, but one night an intruder distrubes their peace and something inside Shelley snaps.

This book  cause a huge stir at the recent international bookfair in Bologna. It was hotly contested with rights sold to young adult and adult publishers for up to six figure sums on four continents. Having now read about a third of it, I can tell you that this compelling, psychological thriller with powerful moral questions is as riveting as it is relevant.

It is not just me spruiking Mice. Here are some snippets from two other Australian booksellers (which I have edited down to take out the spoilers).

Read Mice this morning. Wow! Go the underdog, I say! Despite the violence, it has a vulnerability that never completely dissipates. Unpopular though this opinion may be, and their individual differences notwithstanding, I far far preferred Mice to Beautiful Malice.

And another one.

So…I finished Mice ….It is a great psychological journey – an insight into how the bullied can become the bulliers. And, really, Shelley… I did really enjoy it – it deserves a “compelling” moniker.

Mice will be published in September and is available to pre-order here.

A Review: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Beautiful Malice is a novel by Australian author Rebecca James and what a brilliant novel it is.

My sister (who had a proof-reading copy) recommended this book to me and I was hooked from the very first page, the very first line even.

It is a suspenseful and often thrilling story that doesn’t reveal itself to the final chapter – it is well worth the read.

I was so enthralled with this novel that I had trouble going back to work after reading it in my lunch break.

A brilliant novel that I would whole-heartedly recommend for all to read.

The Booktopia Team.

About Beautiful Malice:

With a page-turning plot and characters that leap off the page, this is the story of an obsessive friendship and dark secrets that can no longer be hidden.

‘Truth or dare?’ she asks.

I hesitate. I have so many secrets, so many things I don’t want to reveal, but this is only a game, only a bit of fun. ‘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 once-perfect family to start a new life in Sydney. There she keeps her head down until she is befriended by the charismatic Alice, and her life takes her in new directions. But there is a dark side to Alice, and as we learn the truth of Katherine’s sister’s death and Alice’s background their story spirals to an explosive finale.

A potent, intense and simply unputdownable psychological thriller from an exciting voice.

SUBMIT YOUR REVIEW HERE – add a comment below.

Booktopia Customer,  Mandee Clarke has sent in her review of Beautiful Malice :

I loved Beautiful Malice. I received it at work and started reading it in my lunch break and I had it finished by 11.00 pm that night. The story was captivating, the characters were likeable and the ending was sad. Teenage novel – nah. I’m in my thirties, an avid reader and thought it was great. I’ve passed it on to family members and friends who share my opinion.

BTW – loving Booktopia’s recent sales. I have more books than I can keep up with. I’m in heaven!!!

Thank You, Mandee!

Emma, our Customer Service Supervisor says…

I absolutely loved it, I haven’t read anything like it in ages – if ever, really. Her style of writing has a freshness to it – I’m not sure how to explain what I mean –  it just feels different. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see ‘who, how and when‘ and couldn’t finish it fast enough. It was a simple and complex story all at once, filled with love laughter and sadness. You genuinely feel for the characters throughout the unfolding of the story. I hope it isn’t too long before Rebecca James releases another book.

Thank You, Emma!

Booktopia Customer,  Jenny Mounfield, has sent in her review of Beautiful Malice :

Like many, I eagerly awaited the release of Rebecca James’, Beautiful Malice after reading her inspiring story of discovery. (As an author, I am a sucker for such success stories.)

When the book arrived I dropped everything and curled up on the couch with it, only moving for coffee fixes and loo breaks. Naturally my expectations were high, which is rarely a good thing because what can ever live up to that?

The story — or rather two stories — concerns the murder of main character Katherine’s sister, Rachel, told through flashbacks, and Katherine’s efforts to make a new, anonymous life for herself in Sydney after these life-shattering events. Once in Sydney, Katherine is befriended by the popular, effervescent Alice, and for the first time since Rachel’s death, feels there is actually some hope of life beyond tragedy. Alice, however, has other ideas.

As the story progresses it becomes more and more evident that Alice is mentally unhinged. It is Alice’s state of mind as well as her actions that drive this story to its climax — a climax which, I have to say, I found unsatisfying and as unlikely as it was dramatic. One major mistake I feel James made was to foreshadow the demise of two major players early in the novel. As a result I found it difficult to emotionally bond with one of these characters in particular knowing that he would soon be gone. (And it wasn’t rocket science figuring out who would perpetrate this.)

To sum up: Beautiful Malice is at its heart a great story, but it feels a little too cobbled together and therefore doesn’t live up to the back cover promise of being ‘an addictive, psychological thriller’. With some fine-tuning it could have been. Also, I found the story of Rachel’s murder far more thrilling and well-written than the main, which tended to merely drift along at times. Still, for the most part I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to teens, which, of course, it is intended.

Thank You, Jenny!

Booktopia Customer, Suzan Fayle, has sent in her review of Beautiful Malice :

I saw Rebecca James interviewed at the 2010 Sydney Writer’s Festival, along with Kristin Tranter. They were two young, newly published Australian writers who had both sold their manuscripts for large sums of money. I’d read Tranter’s book (and enjoyed it), and had bought Beautiful Malice but hadn’t read it. I wondered whether the book had been over hyped, but for once the hype was justified; from the opening paragraph I was hooked by the simple yet evocative writing, and the casual yet determined tone.

The protagonist (and narrator), Katherine, although aged between 15 and 22 during the course of the story, has a maturity developed by the tragedies in her young life. Cleverly managed by the author, the reader can see that Alice isn’t all that Katherine thinks she is, and this forms much of the tension throughout the book. The dialogue is punchy and rings true, and the plot, despite jumping back and forth in time, allows the story to flow at a satisfying pace.

Despite the reader insight, Beautiful Malice leads us through a range of emotions, as Katherine’s grief rings true to those of us who have suffered bereavement. And although the story starts at the end (almost), there are plenty of plot twists to allow the tension to last to the final page, making this book indeed a ‘page-turner’.

I thoroughly enjoyed Beautiful Malice and highly recommend it to readers of all age groups.

Thank you, Suzan!

Read an Extract of Beautiful Malice click here…

Rebecca James author of Beautiful Malice answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Struggling writers all over the world take down your pictures of J.K. Rowling – we have a new poster girl for you – Rebecca James… Who?

Good question. The very same question people asked in 1997 when the name J.K. Rowling was mentioned. Who?

In November 2009 The Sydney Morning Herald published an article about a woman in Armidale, NSW whose novel Beautiful Malice, had started “a worldwide bidding war which has pushed advances on her manuscript past $1 million and led the The Wall Street Journal to wonder if she is the next J.K. Rowling.”

That woman was Rebecca James and Beautiful Malice “has been sold in more than 20 countries and is scheduled to be translated into at least 13 languages. Not bad for a book that was initially rejected by every literary agency in Australia.”

I love that bit.

The article continues… “The Wall Street Journal described how the book sparked a frenzy among publishers at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair and called it ”a sexy psychological thriller”, a ”brilliantly plotted page-turner” and ”Stephenie Meyer … without the vampires”.

What is Beautiful Malice about?

“Set in Sydney, James’s novel depicts the relationship between Katherine, a solitary girl whose sister was brutally murdered, and gorgeous fun-loving Alice, who befriends her. Alice’s influence is transformative, but as Katherine emerges from her grief, she discovers her new best friend can be chilling as well as charming.” (Click here for the full SMH article)

BEAUTIFUL MALICE will be available from 1st May 2010  (pre-order here$19.95 SAVE 20% 


The story of Rebecca James is wonderful – it is a  rags-to-riches story which will warm the hearts of Continue reading


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